A Man Finds His Old Friend on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

Pauline Nevins  May 29, 2021 - Auburn Journal

 

“It’s not Buckingham Palace,” my daughter teased – a reference to my English upbringing. We were in Washington, D.C., travelling with Tina, her husband, Brian, and their two friends, Alicia and Joe. Tina heard the White House was small and a little shabby. She didn’t want me to be disappointed.

 

We were thankful the tours had not been cancelled. This was 2014, when President Obama was in office.

The weeks preceding our trip there had been calamities, from fence jumpers to riots that could have shut down the White House tours.

I loved the simplicity of the White House. I’ve toured European palaces and stately homes, and while these places were more grand, the style of “The People’s House” fit the spirit of the New World – elegant, but not too royal.

A visit to D.C. wouldn’t have been complete without a punt on the Potomac. On the boat from Georgetown to Alexandria, we pointed like excited children to the magnificent monuments we had seen the night before. From the boat dock, our group sauntered up the cobblestone hill to Alexandria’s old town and stopped at the Visitor’s Center. The petite, grey-haired woman behind the counter was helpful but followed each of her suggested tourist sites with an “Oops, it’s closed today,” or with a worried glance at the clock on the wall, exclaiming, “It closes in 15 minutes.”

 

One place that was open for at least an hour, she told us enthusiastically, was the Apothecary Museum. A white-haired docent with a charming southern accent greeted us from behind the museum’s long marble counter.

“This museum was originally a pharmacy – one of the oldest in the nation,” he began, “founded in 1792 by Quakers who,” he said, followed with a dramatic pause, “purchased slaves so they could set them free.”

Tina and I exchanged smiles.