Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free at Last

Yesterday was Inauguration Day. I was there in front of a jumbotron on the Mall wrapped in the magic of the moment. It was a cold day.We took the Metro to Arlington Cemetery and walked one of the most majestic stretches of road in America. With Lee's home behind us and Kennedy's eternal flame at our back we joined the stream of humanity that was pulsing into the city. We took our place in front of a jumbotron around 11. As the stream of dignitaries made their way onto the viewing stand my mind drifted to memories I have of my city. Some very personal memories ... like the time in my 20' s when I decided to take up jogging for the first time and decided that the best place to run would be around the reflecting pool ... it doesn't get more inspiring than that ... or the summer of 1976 when the American Folk Life Festival on the Mall introduced me to music and musicians as well as dear friends, that I have carried with me for a lifetime. Of the carousel in front of the Arts and Industries Building whose music ALWAYS made me smile .... of the summers I worked as a Tourmobile guide on the National Mall and developed a healthy respect for the heat and humidity of a Washington summer.As a tour guide I came to know these monuments and their stories. The Capitol and the Jefferson Memorial echoing the Roman dome ... how despite the darkness of the Civil War, the work went on in building the Capitol dome ... a true act of hope. The Egyptian obelisk tribute to Washington the 897 steps of which I have climbed more than once. The new WW II Memorial taking its rightful place along this sacred axis ... and finally the simple Greek beauty of the Lincoln Memorial.The Lincoln is where we come when we are petitioning. It was from these steps that Marion Anderson was given a much more fitting venue than Constitution Hall ... where Doctor King told us about freedom ringing "from the prodigous hilltops of New Hampshire" AND "Stone Mountain of Georga" ... and where 20 years later Jesse Jackson, using the story of David and Goliath, reminded the crowd that when they did not VOTE, they were "rocks just lying around."

So I thought it was fitting on Sunday night that we faced the Lincoln one last time. We were reminded of Marion Anderson's moment once again, we sang along with Pete once again (did you see him run off that stage ... made me feel young once again) And then I was awakened from my reminiscences by Aretha Franklin on the jumbotron ... and that was when I started to cry. No longer were we facing the Lincoln ... no longer were we the petitioners ... The axis had shifted. Now instead of having our petitions echo to the east toward the seats of power, we WERE the seat of power and Aretha echoed back over a sea of waving American flags the glorious sounds of freedom's ring.I reached out to put my arm around Hunter, but did not want to block the view of the woman behind us ... she said "You're not blockin' my view honey ... you two go ahead and hug .. that's how it should be."


Barry said...

I absolutely LOVE this blog entry. I don't understand the people that just don't get it. The negativity, the cynicism. I have to ignore them and remember yesterday. Listening to this wonderful, momentous occasion on my car radio on my way home, then seeing his speech on MSNBC. It must have been truly magnificent to be there.

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Anonymous said...

Loved every moment of your memories, Leslie. Jennifer represented our family- current beau has close ties to Sen. Byrd so they were right up front and center, sniffling along with the crowd from joyous sorrow- and intense cold! Our heroes are softly leaving us- "Andy" Wyeth for me, dear old Pete still bravely waving like a living flag- Jenn sat on his guitar case (by invitation) at Wolf Trap 35 or so years ago. Hugs! BC