Oh, it was an interesting trip that year and I barely remember any of it. I suppose you would assume I was very young, but that wasn’t the case. I was in high school, 11th or 12th grade, and we were flying into Washington D.C. The problem was, I had a sinus infection from hell. Between the heavy duty antibiotics, the pain the elevation of a plane ride brings, and the constant spiking of my 102 almost 103 fever brought on a dreamlike recording.
In fact, I am missing entire days and moments. All I have are traumatic snippets of what happened that barely make up 3 out of I think 7 days we were in Virginia area. Of course, with my luck as you all know, my first time seeing snow would unfold during this.
First snippet is my name being called and next I know I was standing and Cody, practically my step-brother, was putting my jacket on me.
“C’mon, Val.” Now I am being tugged out into the snow, it’s dark out and I am being placed in a car. “Val, wake up. We’re gonna go play on some fresh snow!”
“Wait, what?” What unfolded was chaos.
Cody drove us around a closed down, snow-covered small town until we found a large, empty parking lot with the fresh snow left intact.
“You want to drive?” Cody shoved me, waking me up again. “Hey, do you want to do donuts in the snow?”
“I’ve never driven on snow… or ice…” I was mumbling and blinking to focus on where I had been taken. “I’d be afraid to drive on this stuff…”
You have to understand my voice was trailing, or at least in my memory of all this.
“Oh, in that case, you’re driving. That’s why we took Grandma’s car.” Before I could absorb Cody’s words I was bombarded by the icy air and then magically holding a steering wheel.
Needless to say, I got my first crash course in driving and doing donuts on snow and ice. My adventures in snow did not finish there! The next morning I was dragged out of the house, demanding that I play in the snow with my little sister. My cheeks were red with my fever and once more I didn’t know whether I put my coat on or someone else did so.
A flash of white flew past me, smashing against the side of the house where I stood on the porch. My sister giggled as she started to build another snowball. I didn’t own gloves, my fingers already numb so I did what any big sister would do: Build a nice snowball with an outer ice-shell. I packed the snow from the railing tight and then let the outer snow melt and refreeze in my palms. When I decided it would hold, I chucked it at her.
It almost failed to break apart as it hit the top of her head, knocking her on her butt. She started crying and in a feverish mumble, I announced, “I need to take my medicine…”
I can’t say if this next part happened later that day or a different day, but I soon found myself driving through the capitol. Jon pulled up to the handicap loading area by the Lincoln Memorial and with renewed excitement I climbed out.
With a newfound boost of energy I started for the Wall, and my mother stopped me, “Don’t go over there, we’re just stopping and taking a look.”
“B-b-but the Wall…” I stammered as she shoved me in the opposite direction.
Sighing, I decided at least we were headed up to see Mr. Lincoln. I started up the stairs when I heard an angry shout. “Valerie, don’t you dare go up those stairs!”
“Mom, that’s the Lincoln Memorial!” With frustration I came back off the steps and joined them by the railing over looking the Washington memorial. “Please let me go up there, please! You don’t have to go!”
“We’d never get you back out if a nerd like you went in there, right Kasie?” Her and my sister had a good laugh as I leaned on the railing in utter disappointment. “Oh, I know where we are now!”
“You do?” A tiny spark of hope glittered and I stood up straight to look at the tower and water feature before us. “That’s the Washington memorial.”
“No, not that.” She huffed. “This is where they filmed Forrest Gump! Look, that tower there was in the movie!”
I went back to the truck and waited for them to stop their excitement of being in a place where a movie had been filmed. The drive back to Front Royal was miserable for me and I was losing my mind as the conversation unfolded.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t see where that huge statue of Lincoln in a chair was.” Sighed my mother, “Or that neat wall with all the names on it.”
If only you could see my face. My jaw hit the floor in disbelief. “Manassas.” I commanded.
“Oh the battlefield?” Jon looked over his shoulder at me.
With an angry expression. “We are stopping to see the Manassas Battlefield.”
No one argued with me. Granted, soon I would regret the request. We arrived, snow clumps still scattered across the field. Much to my delight and historical geekiness the old house and cemetery from the Matthew Brady photos was still there. It was humbling, knowing the soldiers who had fought there, families divided, and paying respects to those who fell upon that sloping field.
I look over, my sister is taking a goofy picture with Jon at the cannon. Ok, that’s cool, nothing wrong with that. Looking to the white house, I started to make my way towards it when screams and giggling erupted from behind me. My mother and sister had erupted in a snow-fight on the battlefield. I spun on my heels, my face red with embarrassment.
“Watch out, Kasie!” My mom chucked a snow ball at her and got her in the leg. “Eww! Deer poop snow ball!”
Tears were building up in my eyes, the heat of my fever reminding me I had no fight or energy to fight this war. I went back to the truck and fell asleep. The rest of the trip is a hazy memory of a painful plane ride home and a few more days of recovering in bed at home.
Needless to say, I never asked my family to visit anywhere historical again after this.