In Delaware, my children talked me into buying them candy and road maps at a gas station convenience store. I think they could sense that my resistance was weak after our night in the hotel and the adventure of getting them a hotel breakfast in the morning. I’d managed to re-pack the car only by letting them pillage the hotel landscaping and throw rocks into the “pond” (the large puddle that had formed in the parking lot during the previous night’s thunderstorms).
Fifteen minutes from my dad’s house, my son declared that he had to go potty. I scanned the exits to see if there was an easy place to take him to the restroom.
“Goddard Space Flight Center, Employees Only,” read one exit sign.
“NSA, Employees Only” read another.
Apparently this exit was also home to the National Cryptologic Museum, which may have had a restroom we could have used, but the “employees only” and my reluctance to risk a wrong turn into the NSA kept me driving. Luckily, my son was able to wait until we reached Grandpa’s house, even with the couple of wrong turns I took down rather sketchy-looking streets.
After my sister arrived, we all headed off to Friendship Park (also called “Turtle Park”) near American University to let the children run free after the hours on the road. On the map, the park didn’t seem all that far from my dad’s house, but in practice, even a short drive across DC is rather complicated.
I drove in the city twice in the four years that I lived in Northern Virginia. One trip involved me driving on the sidewalk across from the White House and the other ended with me bursting into tears in front of a nice soldier at the gates of Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery is a fine destination, but I’d been trying to find the Library of Congress.
This time when we determined that public transit wouldn’t be a great option, I not-very-subtly roped my father into driving. “We’ll only have to take one car!” I said over my shoulder as I raced to move the kids’ car seats from my car to his before he had a chance to protest.
Even for my dad, who’s lived in the area for the past 20-odd years, traversing the city by auto proved to be an exercise in frustration and served as a reminder that he is, in fact, the man who taught me to swear. Confusing intersections, road construction at every corner, misleading GPS directions, and the legendary (and gratuitous) aggressiveness of drivers inside the Beltway all conspired against us, but we eventually made it to the playground.
One website billed Friendship Park as “one of the best playgrounds in DC.” If it is, that says much more about the other playgrounds than it does about this one. It was nice, but nothing spectacular. It had clean restrooms and ample shade, something that the playgrounds back home lack. It had a fenced play area and plenty of benches for the nannies to hang out while their charges climbed the play structures and fought over the communal toys in the shadow of the large turtle statue.
My son pretended the turtle statue was a stegosaurus and that he was Mr. Conductor on the Dinosaur Train.
“Pet him gently, Mommy,” he instructed.
My daughter spent most of her time conquering her fear of the three firemen’s polls there. By the end she was jumping and sliding like a pro on even the tallest one. Over and over and over (and over) again. Both of my children are fairly persistent, but she’s the clear winner in this category.
A trip to a nearby (and very crowded with surly and distracted people) Whole Foods rounded out our day, and we headed back to Grandpa’s house to make plans for Tuesday.