Goin’ Home

Posted on 5 min read
The Stone Bone
The Stone Bone

People say you can’t go home again. I think you can; I guess it has a lot to do with how you feel about your past. Flying recently to Dulles Airport in Washington DC—embarking upon an eight day vacation of both pleasure and obligation—I wondered how it would feel to be a tourist in the city where I grew up.  

I arrived in DC at age two.  I was born in Walnut Creek, California, but my father’s job at the National Institutes of Health brought us to DC.  For most people, DC represents one of the ultimate power centers in the world.  For me, it was a place where as a child, my mom would encourage me to take off my clothes in the sweltering summer and wade into the Reflecting Pool near the Lincoln Memorial; I remember so clearly  my mom—a hot number in her day– standing proudly nearby in her sixties-era mini-skirt.  I learned to ride my bike in the urban jumble of early Adams Morgan without the assistance of a parent, flying down the hills and through the historic cobble stone alleys; in this safe hippie neighborhood of group houses and new businesses, I felt the freedom to go anywhere, developed the wanderlust I still have today.  I sat in the aisle at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with my mouth hanging open and watched Judith Jamison perform with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  I got my period while marching down Constitution Avenue, participating in an anti-Reagan protest.  My driving lessons included learning to navigate the leafy and serpentine Rock Creek Park; I cut my teeth on the city’s roundabouts, designed in the 1700s by the French architect Pierre L’Enfant in the same style as Paris. I snuck out of the house to see Prince at RFK Stadium wearing my signature bright pink eye shadow; my mixed chicks curls were blown out to afro-texture and cut into an eighties-typical asymmetrical geometric shape—complete with a long braided tail. At one time or another, I had  boyfriends in SW, NW, SE, Dupont Circle, Takoma Park, Mount Pleasant, and Georgetown. To get to my school, the Duke Ellington High School for the Arts, I walked a mile to the metro, took a 30 minute subway ride on the Red Line to Dupont Circle, then caught the bus to Georgetown.  In DC I celebrated my most important life milestones. I smoked my first joint, fought my first fight,  lost my virginity, graduated high school, got married, performed at Arena Stage (one of the oldest and most prestigious regional theaters in the nation), had my son, and buried my mother.  

Now, I was going to be a tourist with my family.   A month before we left San Diego, I made an effort to obtain permission to tour the White House from our congressman, 50th district Republican,  Brian Bilbray.   I had seen the White House as a child.  Prior to 9/11, it was a right of passage for all DC school kids. I wanted my son to have it. Unfortunately, Bilbray’s office had to approve the White House tour, and we were not approved. Maybe it was because I had been an Obama precinct captain? Or maybe it was because I had waited to the last minute. I could only wonder. The congressional office did offer us a self-guided tour of the National Archives Museum (complete with a pass that butted us in line ahead of many others) and a private tour of the Capital.

The National Archives Museum was beautiful and fascinating.  If you’re a person like me who gets turned on by research, this museum is the mother-load that holds the nation’s history.  I was moved by the genealogy information that can found by archivists, and by the recent discoveries of Holocaust survivors’ Swiss bank accounts.   My son was moved by seeing one of the last existing copies of the Magna Carta. (Just when you think you’re raising a Philistine, you’re surprised, huh?”

In all the years that I lived in DC, I had never visited the inside of the Capital, so I was looking forward to the Capital tour.  I must say that it would have been better without Bilbray’s aide,  a kind of  “Miss California”,  with her California up speak. When she began to ramble on about the failings of the Obama health care bill, I said nothing. My family was relieved. Besides, there’s nothing cooler than that place in the rotunda where you can hear somebody whispering from across the room. Worth the price of admission, to be sure. 

As the days went by, we all got into it, even my husband, who hates being a tourist. One day we walked from the Smithsonian to the Lincoln Memorial, a feat in 93 degree/90 percent humidity east coast weather. We saw the Vietnam memorial, the WWII memorial, the statues of the Vietnam nurses and the Korean soldiers, the Washington Monument presiding over all. My husband likes to call it the stone bone. He told stories of his weekly Sunday news people’s co-ed touch football games on the grass beneath the bone.

I braved the crowds with my son and toured the Holocaust museum.  We ate lunch at the Holocaust Cafe. In the museum,  I began to cry and my son gave me a hug and told me to “pull it together mom, you’re going to embarrass me.” I explained that I couldn’t imagine something so horrible happening to our little family.  He read every sign and looked at every photo.  I was so proud, I kvelled.

          On our last day, we “visited” my mother at the Parklawn Cemetery.  In the Jewish tradition when you visit a grave site you leave a stone on the grave marker.  This is done because at one time grave monuments were made of mounds of stone.  So, when you visit and leave a stone it shows that we are never finished building a monument to the deceased. We left pieces of coral that I had found here in California to symbolize the West coast East coast connection.  I know she would have liked the fact that there was some thought paid to the ritual.  She also would have loved the little rainbow flag I planted there, l think, always one to let her freak flag fly.

          As always, when I arrived home, I wanted to kiss the tarmac like the pope. San Diego is my home and in many ways it’s better for who I am now.  But like they say, you can take the girl out of the District of Chocolate, but you’ll never get the DC out of the girl.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Lee Anne Davis
    August 24, 2009

    well written! I enjoyed that! I can relate-having spent the first quarter century of my existence just around the beltway in northern VA . You can take the girl outta the south, but not the southern charm outta the girl…GRITS Girls Raised In the South, baby!!

  • Tiveeda
    August 24, 2009

    As another former Washingtonian, your article brought back great memories and tears. Thanks for painting a picture of what to some is simply “my hometown” and I do love sharing D.C. with my kids every couple of years.

  • Anne
    August 26, 2009

    Lovely, Rebekah. You write precisely, and with flair.
    I enjoyed taking a trip to DC through your eyes/heart.

  • tuscan property
    August 30, 2009

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  • Jennifer
    September 5, 2009

    This is touching, the ways you tie together the different pieces of life, from pride in your son to “thought paid” of the coral for your mother. Thank you for that final connection of the public and private monuments we build.

    • rebekah
      September 5, 2009

      Thanks for being such a devoted reader.
      We’ll walk again soon?

  • Jan
    September 25, 2009

    Thank you for taking me on a trip home. Through your heart the memories were very dear. I will never refer to the Washington Monument as anything but “The Stone Bone” again! perfect.

  • Tahj Holden
    October 14, 2009

    I am really impressed that you walked from the Smithsonian to the Lincoln Memorial! Being a former PG County resident, I know how that must have been in that August heat and humidity. I enjoyed this and I really enjoy your blog. Keep up the great work.