Monday, February 18, 2013

Winter in Washington

I had forgotten, from my college years in Baltimore, how much colder the same temperature on the east coast can feel so much colder than on the west coast or in the mountains. I think that is why east coasters dress so differently during the winter than west coasters. Originally, I had just chalked it up to the fact that east coasters' blood is thinner, their constitution weaker, but now I actually think 25 degrees Fahrenheit is colder in Washington, DC than 25 degrees Fahrenheit in Washington state.

We braved the cold yesterday to meet up with Morgan, Phinny and Simon to go see the trains at the National Museum of American History, our first expedition to Washington since we'd arrived. As we were driving through town, Elise and I noticed--as a group of three women wearing fur-lined parkas crossed the street in front of us--that east coasters dressed for the cold differently than west coasters. These women looked as though they were about to tackle K2. By the end of the day, we knew why. In our defense, a stiff northerly wind probably generated wind chills in the teens.

After meeting at their adorable rowhouse rental on Capitol Hill, we took the blue line to Federal Center. The ride on the metro, in and of itself, would have probably been worth the trip for Pete and Sam. Unbeknownst to us at the time half the museum was closed for renovation until 2015, but the Hall of Transportation was still open which was really all we had come to see anyway. Standing beside the giant steam locomotives had their desired effect and the ennui built up over what must have seemed to Pete and Sam like endless days in search of essentials at Ikea, Target and Marshalls, items we needed to pick up in order to make our new house feel like our new home, melted away.

Sam has gotten in the habit of designating certain activities, or even entire days, as either "kid days" or "adult days". I am trying to explain to him that every day of the past two months was spent engaged in some activity  geared towards children. Moreover, I am trying more forcefully to make him understand that activities need not be polarizing, that activities we engage in our both for adults and children. No one wants to shop for toilet paper, dish towels, a dish drainer, trash bags, but these items benefit both adults and children. Likewise, kids don't own a monopoly on enjoying to see giant, old, monolithic steam engines. The best activities should engage both parents and kids. It's not like we were dragging them to the Hall of Presidents at Disney World, which, truthfully, who is the target audience for this ride. I like American history as much as the next guy, but even I can't sit through that show.

Even though this is likely our last winter in three years, it is hard to relish it or even enjoy it. I forgot that there was a reason snowbirds fled snow, but even winter in Washington might be more bearable if the snow would stick, drift into giant fluffy piles that we could sculpt into proper carrot-nosed and charcoal-buttoned snow men. That being said, I still think any snow is beautiful. Winters in Washington tend to be gray and silent. I look out the window of our apartment and see hundreds of leaveless trees, sticks and branches, bony fingers shivering in the wind. I am excited to see what spring brings, but need to be careful not to wish seasons arriving before the previous one has completed its course, less we wish our time in Washington away too quickly.

Though we will be here for nine months, I already sense it will go very quickly. Though I am looking forward to the simplicity of living overseas, I don't want to wish these days away. Being in Falls Church with baby Clementine, reminds me of being in Ballston with baby Peter. He would wake unbearably early then, and I would hold him for what seemed like hours at the window to his room just watching the red lights on top of the apartment buildings blink and the western sky lightening from deep nightime blue to indigo then pink as the sun rose. I read recently that though we gaze upon our children and consciously tell ourselves constantly that we need to remember forever, we, in actuality, only retain 1% of their childhoods. This is a discouraging statistic and may mean I try to write more down. Apologies in advance.

Pete still wakes unbearably early. A few mornings ago, Clementine and I were making coffee in the kitchen. Elise and Sam were still sleeping, and I had closed the doors to both their rooms so as not to wake them. A few moments later, I heard a scratching coming from behind the door of the boys' room. I slowly open the door only to find Pete balled up on the floor. He ribbits then comes hopping out of his room.

Likewise, I try to memorize everything Sam says. His arguments are becoming more persuasive, and I admire him for this. He'd make a great politician; I hope he does not pursue this path. At the beginning of each day he addresses Elise and I and tells us what "the deal" is for that day, i.e., "....Okay, this is the deal for today." Followed by, "First, we have breakfast, etc. etc." There is nearly always something to do with trains on his agenda or something that markedly makes it a "kids' day". He is not unreasonable. His deals are usually sound. Often at the end of the day he will propose, "Okay, this is what the deal is. First, we eat dinner, then we have baths, then we have dessert."

"If you eat a good dinner," I interject.

"Then," he continues, "We brush teeth, then we look at trains on your computer. This sound like a good deal?"

Yes, Boobulah, this sounds like a good deal.

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