Washington DC: moving from foreign to familar

“Welcome to the District of Columbia” our phone chirps. We enter the sacred space of our country’s capitol with claps and cheers erupting from those enthusiastic enough to commit outward excitement (namely me).


The buildings here proclaim their space with grand statuesque importance ensconced with pillars, sculptures and laurel leafs–nods toward ancient Greek and Roman architecture. Monuments honoring men whose names evoke my respect and awe (as well as others whom I fail to correctly categorize), cast their shadows on our path. Street names call attention to historical people, places and documents and all the while activity hums and churns. If a collective breath was held, I believe I could hear legislative decisions being made behind closed doors. This is a place where things get done.


Although we are clearly nestled within the womb of our own country, I find myself feeling like a foreigner. The food trucks parked parallel along the street curb, the metro busses speeding by. . . This is not my town, and yet, it is: both figuratively as a US citizen and literally as my house is parked a mere 30 minutes away.

First introductions

Our first introduction to the city involves a visit to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Here I ogle at Julia Child’s kitchen, Dorthy’s ruby slippers and stand breathless at the base of the 200 year old flag that inspired our national anthem.

Three hours later, I am equally exhilarated and exhausted as we exit the museum. The 80 degree weather and the fact that we could not bring food into the museum, provides the welcomed excuse to splurge on street vendor ice cream bars. Our kids, giddy with sugar-laced excitement, weave back and forth down the sidewalk. They marvel at the city’s activity while a mental tally loops in my mind: one, two, three, four kids.


Like deer to a stream, we seek out respite from the piercing sun. The Washington Monument provides exactly what we need. I rest on the grass, nestled in the monument’s widening shadow while the kids play a game of tag.

As the clouds roll in, a pervasive feeling overtakes me in that brief oasis of rest. I realize that I can’t truly feel at home in a place until I understand it. Becoming acquainted with people begins with introductions, exchanging of names and interests, stories and traditions. This is true for places as well.

As foreign as we felt upon first entering the city, I recognize that a feeling of calm familiarity will begin to form in the days ahead. With each return we will learn more. Street names will guide rather than confuse and our personal stories will layer upon those who have come before us. I find comfort in the realization that no place stays foreign forever.

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