Tag Archives: Washington

We live in Arlington

the view from our window

the view from our window

We live in Arlington,
We live in Arlington,
Right next to Washington, DC!

These lines come from a little song that our children learned when they were (at various times) in about second grade in Arlington Public Schools.  Our oldest child, Sarah, started public school Montessori at Hoffman-Boston School  in 1978. Our youngest child, Billy, graduated from Yorktown High School in 2005. So, you can see we spent a goodly amount of time in Arlington. There was a stint in Denver in the early 1980s and then in 2006 Tom and I moved to Charlottesville. There we gardened, we walked everywhere in town, we drove those back roads (Old Plank Road, Poorhouse Road, Hebron Church Road…), we listened to music, and we loved our neighbors. During this era, we did another stint in Denver and we also traveled many roads (55,000 miles’ worth) in our camper.

Now we have come back here, right next to Washington, DC. We plan on more road trips, from our new/old base of Arlington. Here, too, we will garden, we will walk, and we will listen to the music (Jazz last weekend). We will go to Shakespeare, lectures, museums, and hang out with our children and friends, whom we love.

Arlington, Virginia

Arlington, Virginia

Below are some of the things I like about Arlington.

Actually, I am struggling with this writing.  I want to tell you about how Sarah and Robert’s elementary school (Drew Model School)  was so big into process and project-based learning. I used to tell folk stories to the children and go on nature walks with them.  I remember how Billy loved to wear the monarch butterfly suit at Long Branch Nature Center. Also, I think about how years later, my friend and fellow teacher Donna and I would walk along the stream at Long Branch with the immigrant parents and their children. Dusk came and the bats started flying. I remember one of our teachers’ assistants, Dan. He was a young Vietnamese man and he would swing with the kids–like the child he almost was. When I think of those evenings, I want to cry for the loveliness of it.

birds outside our window

birds outside our window

frog in a Long Branch Pond

frog in a Long Branch pond

For the first several years in Arlington we didn’t have much money. However, even at the beginning, in 1978, we did have money for Brenner’s Bakery doughnuts (sadly defunct these many years) down the street.  Later on, mostly in the 1980s, kindly women would cluck over our children at Korean, Vietnamese, and Salvadoran restaurants and serve us delicious meals for a little bit of money. Many years later–in the late 1990s–my adult students from Bosnia, El Salvador, and Vietnam made food for Sarah and Mike’s wedding feast.*

I think I am working up to a more focused comment.  I loved and I do love the diversity of Arlington.  At the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP), I taught adult immigrants and refugees from over 80 countries.  Even now, when Arlington is much trendier than in the old days, I look out from my Starbucks table and see people from everywhere walk by on Clarendon Boulevard.

PHO 75, Arlington, VA

PHO 75, Arlington, VA

We live close to Washington, DC. Since Tom and I moved back here a little over a month ago, we have been jogging: Jogging past the Netherlands Carillon, past Arlington Cemetery, and along the Potomac River.  Sometimes we cross the Memorial Bridge–trotting straight towards the Lincoln Memorial, left past the Kennedy Center, on to Georgetown, and over the Key Bridge back home.  What can I say? I have a degree in political science and another in American Studies: I love being here.

Not even getting into the rest of the natural, cultural, and historical opportunities, but we love the Smithsonian Institution. We have been visiting the museums, the zoo, the gardens and the Folklife Festival non-stop for almost 40 years and we never get tired of it, and the price is still right.

musician outside of the Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC

musician outside of the Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC

After 9/11, we saw the Pentagon burning.  You have probably figured that I am not a big military type, but this was my home.  I cried for days. Later when Tom and I joined Arlington’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), every one of our instructors from the Arlington County Fire Department had been at the Pentagon after the attack. I am honored to have learned from these (and I never use this word lightly) heroes.

Rosslyn, Arlington, September 2017

Rosslyn, Arlington, September 2017

Enough! I love Milford, MI and Lake Superior; those red rocks and wild mountains of the west; Charlottesville and its funky music heart, but I am happy to be back home in Arlington.

Arlington County Fair

Arlington County Fair

community resources

community resources

Watergate: the Rosslyn Garage

Watergate: the Rosslyn Garage

Rosslyn cityscape

Rosslyn cityscape

rainbow from our balcony in Rosslyn, Arlington, VA

rainbow from our balcony in Rosslyn, Arlington, VA

*Also, our friend Sharon’s mom brought a Southern Maryland specialty, spinach-stuffed ham.

September Song

September 11, 2001 As often as I think about that day, I also think about the several days before it. If you were in Washington D.C. then, I wonder if you remember the weather? In the days before that Tuesday, the sky was a perfect blue and the temperature was (for Washington) unseasonably pleasant for early September. The organization for which I worked, the National Center for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE), and the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), U.S. Department of Education convened a symposium, The National Symposium on Adult ESL Research and Practice. This conference was held September 4-7 at the S. Dillon Ripley Center at the Smithsonian Institution. As I remember it, planning and conducting the symposium was hectic, but exciting. My colleagues and I were proud to offer the attendees—adult English as a second language teachers and administrators from the fifty states and the territories—a nonpareil venue and we had the weather to match. One of the random memories that still remains in my mind is that—because the U.S. Department of Education had no authority or budget to provide afternoon snacks—my colleagues and I baked cookies for the symposium attendees. That was crazy; we were already working day and night as educators, but when we finally got home we had to swap our school clothes for aprons. It was crazy, but everyone enjoyed the cookies, so it turned out okay.

The symposium concluded on Friday and several of the participants were planning on getting some sightseeing in on the weekend before they headed home. In addition to the usual Washington offerings, a brand-new event would be going on that weekend. On Saturday, September 8, the Library of Congress and First Lady Laura Bush were hosting the first National Book Festival on the East Lawn of the Capitol. NCLE was hosting a booth offering information and materials related to teaching English to adult immigrants. I can see it now, my friend MaryAnn and I in the early morning, revived overnight from the stresses of the symposium, trundling our signs, flyers, boxes, and bags up to the Capitol lawn, waved through pro forma security. This was not a day for Republicans or Democrats. It was a festival—in all the meaning that happy word suggests—for book lovers. The sun shown, people heard authors talk and give readings, and there was food. Unlike carnivals with Tilt-a-Whirls, this was my kind of event.

After I was released from booth duty, I met my husband and we wandered around listening to several authors. We listened to a presentation by some of the Navajo code talkers. They explained in some detail the code they developed and which successfully confounded Japanese efforts to crack it during World War II. One of the code talkers commented on how he didn’t think most Americans had heard of their service to the country. After the talk, I asked one of the code talkers if he would autograph my program. I assured him I knew about the work of the code talkers. He thanked me for remembering, signed my program, and shook my hand. I have not discarded that program. There’s a website now, so you could find out more about the Navajo code talkers.

Blue, calm weather continued through Tuesday until we heard the news. Actually, I think the good weather continued after Tuesday, but we were all crying so much that the whole world seemed filled with smoke and death.

In the evening when it was finally, finally time for sleep, our son Billy—just starting 9th grade—hauled an old mattress into our bedroom and plopped down to sleep near us. Such a good idea; let’s all stay close together and hug.

Maybe you had to be in Arlington to hear it and maybe you never read about this. Very early in the morning of September 12 we heard huge, ugly airplane noises and we thought we were being attacked. It turns out that it was U.S. military planes at National Airport, a little over eight miles away from our house. We were already on tenterhooks, but I think this noise helped solidify the case of trauma I was developing.

The next night, Tom and I dropped off Billy with friends and headed into Washington. We were going to a memorial concert to be held on the west side of the Capitol. This was our small attempt to stand in respect and solidarity with those who had died in New York, Pennsylvania, and our home of Arlington. No one knew what was happening yet. We felt there was a slight chance that it was dangerous to hang out near the Capitol, but we wanted to stand up (a little shaky) to our enemies. Only four days since the book festival, the world had changed. We sat on the Capitol steps and looked across the river back towards Arlington to where the Pentagon was still burning.

Thousands of people surrounded the Capitol Reflecting Pool. We lit memorial candles. I think I still have my candle stub. There didn’t seem to be a formal program. Someone would start a song and it would travel around the pool in a wave until we were all singing together. I remember that we were standing by several people who sang beautifully—a well-worn modifier, but true here, nonetheless.   We sang patriotic songs and I liked that fine because I have always loved those songs and I loved the United States. I was satisfied though, when someone was starting with “God Bless America” and someone else said something like God bless the world or God bless us all. A latter day Tiny Tim had come to save us from our own parochial—albeit understandably traumatized— selves.

We sang many other songs, but the only one I remember for certain is Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” It’s like she wrote it for this special occasion years before we had any idea this world would come to us:

If the sky above you
Grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together
And call my name out loud
Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
(1971)

After that night, we never had easy access to the government buildings or grounds or festivals ever again. I understand this, I think, but I haven’t liked it.

My workplace in Northwest Washington was about four and half miles from my home in Arlington. My friend and officemate Carol, who lived near me in Arlington, and I used to plot how we could make our way back home across the Potomac River if terrorists bombed the bridges. I thought that maybe I would be able to swim across the river at Chain Bridge. I stocked up on Ricola cough drops and had enough to be able to share with Carol. I am not sure what that was about, but I still have more than enough decaying cough drops scattered about my remaining possessions. In the face of the millions of people worldwide who faced and do face calamities every day, particularly the immigrants and refugees I had met, I am not particularly proud of being so upset about my own circumstances after 9/11. I do not like terrorists, I want people to act right, and I want to be brave, but generous. There, maybe those are my final words for now about September 11.

Adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life. Unpublished work © 2012 Lynda Terrill. All rights reserved.

To Autumn

leaves and moss in birdbath

leaves and moss in birdbath

I know it is the first day of autumn.  I know it is the first day of autumn because

  • they told me this morning on NPR,
  • my husband, Tom, made beef barley vegetable soup,
  • I made applesauce with some decent apples,
  • The Washington, DC football team (my home team for over twenty-five years) was just beaten by the Detroit Lions (my back home  home team) today,
  • the dogwood leaves are turning red,
  • the squirrels—crazy to  bury the black walnuts—messed up the lettuce plants and radish, swiss chard, and beet seeds I planted yesterday, and
  • the blue jays scold me from the branches.
dogwood

dogwood

Also: A week ago, when I was recovering from a fearsome case of poison ivy/oak/sumac/something and feeling sad, a murder of crows kept me company from my neighbor’s juniper tree.  I notice they hang out together more when fall is coming.

About the dogwood: Our old dogwood is turning red early because it is dying.  More precisely, it has dieback.  We can’t bear to get rid of it quite yet—and the birds and bugs love it, too —so the tree will continue a while longer with Tom and me.  Both of us as well as the dogwood have lived to much more advanced ages than John Keats did. Before he went, he managed to write a poem about autumn.  I tip my cup of soup to him and his poem:

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

                 John Keats  (composed in 1819)