My 10-year-old niece, Rose, is visiting and yesterday she wanted to revisit some of the monuments and memorials. First stop: the White House. And when we got there a couple of women were walking around calling out that they had free tickets for a tour of the White House gardens.
Always suspicious, I asked, “what’s the deal?” And one of them said the gardens were open to the public today and we could get free tickets. I later learned that this is a one-weekend-a-year event.
We jumped at the chance to get on the White House grounds and joined a very long line that turned out to be moving very quickly, so that we were inside in about 20 minutes, after passing through airport-like security.
It was quite exciting getting up to the doors of the White House, with Jacqueline Kennedy’s trimmed shrubs on one side and the rose garden on the other. From there, you could look out and see the backyard fountain and the Washington monument and Jefferson memorials in the background. Quite impressive!
Security guards were everywhere, reminding people to stay on the paths and not wander onto the grass at all.
Photographs dotted the lawn, illustrating presidents planting trees that are now numbered to correspond to a diagram in a program booklet. So we could note the white dogwood planted by the Clintons, for instance, and the southern magnolia planted by Andrew Jackson in 1830. We saw the children’s garden planted by Lady Bird Johnson and a photo of the baby footprints and handprints of President H.W. Bush’s grandson imprinted into a paving stone there.
A military band was playing in one corner, entertaining the slow line of people filing into First Lady Michelle Obama’s organic vegetable garden. Rose and I immediately spotted the bee boxes there, since they are similar to the ones my landlord Brian has in our backyard.
Rose posed in front of Sasha and Malia’s playground set, and soon after we called her grammy and popop and her mom and sister to tell them the exciting news about where we were touring at that moment.
The day before, we went to the National Zoo. We saw all sorts of animals, like tigers, lions, invertebrates, reptiles, small mammals, zebras, cheetahs and gazelles.
We liked the orangutans best because they were swinging on a high wire over the crowds outside. We heard one of the tigers roar and we saw a crocodile slide into the water. Rose says the meerkats and the porcupine were so cute.
(photos courtesy of Rose Cantrell)