Getting to the Penny - My Family Travels
Summer '11 610

When my guidance counselor suggested that I visit colleges before applying, I don’t think that this is what she had in mind. There were six of us-my mom, aunt, brother, sister, a cousin, and myself- squeezed into my mom’s tiny Honda complete with a huge L.L.Bean roof rack on the way to Washington D.C. to see American University. As we drove through the city to find our hotel, my six-year old cousin, Charley, showed off her kindergarten knowledge.

“And that building is on the dollar bill. And that one is on the five dollar bill. And that one (as she pointed to the Lincoln Memorial) is on the penny! Mama can we go see the penny? Pleeeeaaassseeee?”

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After a very long six hour car ride, we would have given her the world if it made her quiet so of course all five of us answered in unison, “YES! WE’LL GO SEE THE PENNY!” It wasn’t until later that we realized the huge mistake that we had made.

As my mom and I made our way through the tour at American, my aunt, siblings, and cousin visited the zoo. While I walked through air conditioned science labs and libraries, the rest of my family trudged through a D.C. heat advisory to see smelly snakes and monkeys. I had never been as grateful for air conditioning as I was the moment my aunt sent a picture via her cell phone of everyone drenched with sweat in front of an exhibit. Thankfully, they had all showered by the time my mom and I returned to the hotel.

Our exhaustion was tangible as we ate around the table at the Cheesecake Factory, and when we returned to the hotel afterwards, everyone slumped onto beds, couches, and floors. Everyone, that is, except Charley.

“Is it time to go see the penny?” she said.

All of us played a game of chicken to see who would be the unfortunate soul to tell her that there was no way that we were going to see the Lincoln Memorial tonight. After an awkward thirty second silence, I told Charley that the penny would still be there the next time we came to D.C. The pitiful look on her face as I told her the bad news would have broken a marble statue’s heart. I then turned to the rest of my family and gave them my best sales pitch, and twenty minutes later we were loading onto the Metro to ride out to the Mall.

Our exhaustion seemed to melt away as we came across the Washington Monument just as the sun began to set. We laughed and joked about how we had almost missed the Mall at night because of our laziness. The Lincoln Memorial seemed to be a half hour walk away, at most.

If we had been in the desert, I would swear that the Lincoln Memorial was a mirage. Without other monuments and memorials to mark the distance, I would never have believed that we were making any progress. We began to wonder aloud if it would be best to just turn around and head back to the hotel, but these thoughts were quickly halted with a pout and a whimper from Charley as she rode on my brother’s back.

At last, we made it to the Lincoln Memorial. We mustered up just enough energy to smile for a few pictures before we turned around and made the long journey back to our hotel, with the looks of exhaustion that only true travelers know.

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