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April 15, 2024

My Summer Vacation, by Jack Runner (age 8)

By Mel Trent

This summer, Mom and Dad took me and my big brother Quinn to Washington, DC. There are lots of museums and memorials there. It's where all the presidents get to live in the White House after they get elected. We went past the White House but weren't allowed to stay and look at it. There were soldiers everywhere and mean dogs. Dad said someone tried to shoot the president. Mom told him not to tell stories, so he didn't.

We went to the Smithsonian museums. First the art museum, which was boring, but Mom liked it. Then the museum where all the dinosaurs are. I liked that. I'm glad I didn't see any dinosaur ghosts. The dinosaurs are huge. Their ghosts would be huge, too, and that would have been scary. Then we went to the Air and Space museum where they have all kinds of airplanes and spaceships and cool things like rocks from the moon and from Mars. Space is neat. I wonder if there are ghosts in space. Quinn said that one of Saturn's moons had aliens, but I didn't believe him.

After that, we went to the memorial for the soldiers who died in the Vietnam Conflict. Dad said calling it a conflict was bullshit, and Mom told him not to talk like that in front of me and Quinn. Me and Quinn just laughed at him. But after that, I wasn't laughing. The Wall is all black, and the names carved in it are grey and look like ghosts. The Wall has been there for so long that a lot of it is worn down to where the names can't be read, but there's a book that has all the names, and if you touch the Wall, you can feel the letters. It's a sad place. There aren't any ghosts there, but I could still feel how sad people were when they came to look at the Wall, especially when it was first built. Mom and Dad were quiet by the time we left the Wall. Even Quinn was quiet. They couldn't feel it like I could, but it was strong enough for them to feel it, too. I tried not to cry.

The day after that, we went to the Holocaust museum. I knew before we went in that I didn't want to go inside. It was so sad, even sadder than the Wall. I tried not to think about all the people who died just because they weren't the same religion as the German leaders, but when you go in, the tour guide hands out these little booklets with the names of people who were in the camps, so by the time you've seen all the exhibits which show you really horrible pictures and replicas of the gas chambers and things and even a pile of shoes near the end, you get to the end of the booklet and you find out if the person survived. Mine was a boy who was my age. He died. I tried not to cry about that, but I couldn't help it. It really hurt. Quinn made fun of me, so I called him bad names, and Mom and Dad took us back to the hotel for the rest of the day.

The next place we went was Arlington National Cemetery. It was worse than the Holocaust museum because people are actually buried there, and I could see the ghosts. They're all really sad, and I was sad for the ones who didn't seem to know they were dead. They were still fighting whatever war they died in. Some of them tried to attack me and Mom because they fought the Japanese in WWII, and Mom is Japanese. I look like Mom. Quinn looks like Dad, so the ghosts didn't go after them. I couldn't do a lot because there were tons of people there, and of course Mom and Dad and Quinn, and I didn't want everyone to know what I was seeing. It was scary.

Then we watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It's not just one soldier, Dad said. It's a bunch who were never identified, so they couldn't be buried properly or their families told what had happened to them. When the guards started to move, all the ghosts came out to look around, and most of them were really pissed off because they weren't buried right. I hid behind Dad when I saw them because I didn't want them to notice me. I was afraid they would realize that I could see them and that they would try to get me to help them. I wanted to help them, but there were too many people, and everyone was so quiet while the guards were changing places.

I couldn't hide for long. They saw me and started shouting all at once, and I couldn't make sense out of any of what they were saying. And there were so many of them, shouting as loud as they could and getting angrier and angrier because they thought I was ignoring them. I couldn't tell them that I had to ignore them because of all the people. I couldn't even say I was sorry that I had to ignore them. I don't think it would have mattered. They were already mad to start with. They were scared, too. They didn't want to be unknown any more. They were all screaming at once, though, and I had to cover my ears. I heard one of them coming closer to me. He was angry like all the rest, but he saw that I was scared, so he was trying to be nice. I looked at him, and he said, "Hey, kid, my name is..."

And then the guards were done changing, and all the ghosts went away. I felt stupid, standing there behind Dad with my hands over my ears like it was loud when the only sound anyone else could hear was the flags flapping.

I didn't like Washington, DC. I hope we never go back there.

Article © Mel Trent. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-09-01
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