We booked our tickets for this spring break trip just before the school shootings in Parkland, FL. A few weeks later the March for Our Lives rally was announced for D.C., and we realized that we were arriving the morning of the march. As the time drew closer, and details were firmed up, I knew that it was an opportunity for our family – but especially the girls – to be a part of something historic and powerful. If everything went smoothly with the flight and ground transportation, we’d make it – at least for the end of it. I told M that even if we were late, I wanted to head over there anyway – just to see the crowds and be a part of the collective voice in Washington that day.
January through mid-March has been a blur. I can’t remember working so hard in a long time – maybe back several years ago to the period where I was taking my licensing exams. Every week I’d tell myself that I’d start planning and researching for our trip, but each week it would just get shoved to the following week’s to-do list. The week before we left was the busiest one of them all. M flew to Dallas for two days, and each night I scrambled just to get through the laundry and dinner. The night before we left town, I picked the girls up and we ran into South City Art Supply for sign materials. (Side note: Why do I never go here? I have no idea. It’s in my very own neighborhood – I’ve just been stuck in my Artmart ways for so long.) We picked up illustration board in pre-cut sizes that fell below the size limits for the march. We got a couple of fresh sharpie markers too, and headed home.
After cleaning out the fridge and packing for a few hours, each of the girls set to work on their poster ideas. E had sketched her idea up ahead of time, but F came up with hers on the fly. She wanted to list the things that she liked about school and then cross off the word GUNS at the bottom. First she wanted it to look like a chalkboard, but then she changed her mind to notebook paper. Surprisingly, she let me draw the lines for her with a straightedge, although she directed me carefully (and strictly) throughout the entire process. She was so thrilled with how it turned out. Then she lettered her words out in pencil before tracing those over with marker. She gets frustrated pretty easily with projects like these, but she was calm and engaged for this one. It was neat to watch.
E spent a couple of hours on her poster, though I tried to speed her up some so she’d get some sleep. I think it turned out beautifully.
I started mine around eleven o’clock, and kept it simple. I had debated a lot of different options around the idea of gun regulations and safer schools and the NRA / Congress, but then I took a few moments to really reflect on why we were doing our best to not only to make it to this march, but also how we participate in or support protests in our own community in the Black Lives Matter movement. I thought about our support of and work within the We Stories community – how we are consciously and explicitly discussing issues of race and racism with our girls. We talk about the #metoo movement, we discuss immigration issues, we point out inequity in systems, we drill in the need to look for the complete story in our history lessons and current events. Because I can carry all of these ideas in my head and even act on them in my own life – but the only way my girls will know that these issues matter to me, to their father, to our family, to our community, and our world is if we say it in front of them, and do the work where they can see it. Years from now, when these moments in a movement are mentioned, they will know where their parents were standing. They will remember where they were standing.
Another thing that made the day really special was that my college roommate came to join us for the afternoon. She drove a couple of hours each way (with her four-year-old!), met up with us at our hotel, got us oriented on the Metro, and walked through the crowds with us before heading back home to Maryland. It was a great start to a great week, and I wish we lived closer to one another and could visit more often. Maybe next time it will be without 800,000 other people around us!
After the march was over, we met up with some other St. Louis families to say ‘hi’, and then we headed back to our hotel, tired and starving. We decided to eat our first and only meal of the day at a burger and shake restaurant two doors down from our hotel, but we made a quick stop at our room to drop our backpacks and signs. When we got back off the elevator the lobby was packed with people, and the first kids we recognized were the Parkland kids. Before I could even think about it, I blurted out “Emma.” The group stopped talking and looked up, and so I thanked them for their work and for a powerful day. They looked so independent and brave and big on the stage, but in the hotel they just looked like kids. Like my kids, hanging out in the lobby with their parents and teachers. I watched this video they made of their journey, and it’s fun to see all the images of the neighborhood that we saw as well. We stayed at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar in Dupont, and you’ll see it in most of the footage outside of the march. It was a great home base for our trip, and was made extra special by their presence there.
We were back in our room before six, unpacked and settled in for an early night on a day that started long before the sun came up in a different time zone. And it was worth all the effort, a day we won’t soon forget.