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Baby of the World: Baby at the Smithsonian


The Lime is now seven weeks old – high time to get some culture.  We’re in College Park, MD, for the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals.  Arriving early, Meg and I decided to head downtown to see some sights, with the Lime in tow.

Saddled with all the accouterments of modern baby’s existence, we began our journey at the Prince George’s Plaza Metro stop.  We quickly learned that all elevators are not equal — they serve different sides of the platform (north or southbound on the green line). Descending, realizing, ascending, crossing, and descending became a theme for the day — a ritual dance.

The Lime slept for the entire journey down to the Smithsonian, including a delay in the heat of the train, where we had a pleasant discussion with another traveling couple. They advised us to get out daughter interested in Thomas the Tank Engine, rather than Dora the Explorer, for reasons of finance — Thomas DVDs and toys are much less expensive, apparently! If she could be persuaded to be fascinated by say, Magic cards or books or Star Wars toys from the 1980’s, that would be even better — we have a great deal of those in storage already!

Upon arriving at the Smithsonian Metro stop, we found that there was no elevator up to the Mall-side exit. There was an elevator to Independence Ave, but only to the mezzanine. Then, the only option was escalators.  We disassembled the stroller and car seat and baby and carried them up.  It was safe, but a hassle — a two-person job, at a minimum.

We paused as we crossed the Mall to take appropriately epic pictures of a seven-week-old in front of the architectural pageantry of our nation.

The Lime on the National Mall

The Lime on the National Mall

The front entrance to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is also not stroller accessible.  We carried the stroller up the front steps and into a sea of middle schoolers. The museum is not so much a catalog of artifacts and discoveries of the natural world as it is a laboratory to observe the American middle schooler in its natural habitat — their socialization and mating rituals, the grace of their limbs as they dart across the rotundas and playfully scamper the wrong way on escalators, their various vocalizations that register emotions as varied as disgust, contempt, boredom, weariness, and superiority. I don’t mean to wave my cane and shout “Get off my lawn!” (especially since I had a seven-week-old), but I wish that, in the absence of self-discipline, that there had been more adult oversight of these rambunctious youngsters, if only to encourage the educational aspects of the museum over the social ones.

Meg and I needed to eat; immediately after we did, the Lime needed to eat. An hour and a half after arriving, we were ready to enter the first gallery: gems and minerals. Spectacular, of course.  Given the nature of the book I’m writing, I had to linger for awhile in front of the displays of gold. We saw moon rocks and touched a piece of Mars, a fragment knocked to Earth by a meteor.

The Lime with Gold at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

The Lime with Gold at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

The Lime, unfortunately, lost emotional containment at this point, so we had to flee this exhibit after twenty minutes and wend our way through to the only second-floor bathroom, which was at the far end of an exhibit. The Lime, screaming at the top of her lungs, is still a order of magnitude quieter than a caffeinated middle schooler cooing to her crush in front of a dugong skeleton.

The men’s room had no changing tables — only the women’s. As I waited outside the women’s restroom (fortunately, the presence of the stroller marked me as an attentive father, rather than a pervert), I observed dozens upon dozens of angry middle schoolers. Because of renovation, this exhibit dead-ended at the restroom — on reaching the end, one had to retrace one’s route out of the exhibit and back to the main hall.  Several signs at the beginning of the exhibit announced this fact and apologized for the inconvenience.  Still, party after party of teenagers arrived at the dead end and were disgusted that they would have to walk back out the way they’d come. Apparently, the American middle schooler, in addition to being lazy, is also illiterate.

I would call the trip a success, though. We successfully reached our destination and returned safely. The Metro is clean and safe, if not always clearly signed and stroller-accessible.  The citizens and staff are kind to out-of-towners like us — our ignorance of the SmarTrip system was going to cost us an additional $10 for parking (on top of the regular fee of $4.80, plus the round-trip fare of $7.20 per [non-Lime] person), but the station master took pity upon us.

When we were planning this trip, Meg told me that, on days when she was busy with Odyssey activities, I could take the Lime into DC for sight-seeing. As we were retracing our steps up on down some elevator in the bowels of the earth, laden with the stroller, the carrier, diapers, bottles, blankets, burp cloths, and a precariously sleeping baby, Meg said, “I retract my statement that you can take her sight-seeing. I think it’s impossible for one person to manage all this.” I think she’s right. When the Lime is a little older, she can go in a backpack, with fewer artifacts necessary for her care, and with longer times between feedings. Then, we might get to see a few more galleries at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Middle Schooler.

Written by timwestover

May 26th, 2011 at 8:41 am

Posted in Baby

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