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Sexy and Seventeen

Well, I wasn’t sexy when I was seventeen, or at any other time in my life. But, I did go on my Senior Trip when I was seventeen. We went to Washington DC, that bastion of politics, learning and museums that was supposed to teach us seniors a thing or two about America.

I didn’t appreciate much about that trip, other than a hideous 1987 sweatshirt I bought from a street vendor and the amount of time I got to spend flirting with the cute boys in my class. It was February of 1987, and it snowed on our arrival. My first view of DC (or any big city, for that matter) was of it covered with a wash of white. I giggled and preened and hair sprayed my way through the whole experience.

Yesterday, I relived a portion of that trip. I decided to revisit the Jefferson Memorial, a site I had not entered since that freezing day in 1987 when our group of gaggling twelfth graders decended upon the peace of it. The sky was a bottomless brand of blue, the kind of lovely that happens when summer humidity abates for a few hours. Set against the backdrop of that sky, the white domed building jumped out of the landscape as I walked around the wind-whipped Tidal Basin.

I don’t remember how we approached the Monument my senior year. Maybe we came on a bus, or maybe we walked. I know we were obnoxious, however it happened.

It was different yesterday. I’d already walked past the spot at the White House where I had my photo taken with one of my male classmates and stopped at the Washington Monument, where we all stood in a long line to ride to the top. By the time I approached the Jefferson Memorial on foot, I was sweaty and tired and thirsty, and I knew I had at least four miles to walk on the return. In short, I regretted going out there in the first place.

Until I saw it again up close, a palatial Pantheon in our own country. I made my way through the high school groups to stand inside the breezy, shaded dome, and I sat, still and reverent. I watchedΒ a girl try to pole dance on one of the columns, and I wondered if I did that the last time I was there. I listened to the group of girls next to me, complaining about how they were ready to go. That was me at seventeen.

They say we shouldn’t repeat things, that the repetition ruins the novelty of the initial experience. In this case, I’m glad I relived a microscopic portion of my life. With adult eyes, I saw the things I missed at seventeen: the exact copy of the Pantheon ceiling in Rome, minus the hole; the way Jefferson stares longingly at the White House in the distance; the salient words of the Constitution engraved upon the walls; the way the stone columns frame various perspectives; the play of shadow and light.

It was so much better than when I was seventeen.

Too Much is Just Enough: Doing Things Over to Get Them Right


27 Comments Post a comment
  1. Well, I have joked that I’ll keep having children until I figure it out. But then I remember that those babies will turn into 17 year olds eventually. πŸ™‚

    I went to London my senior year of high school to cheer in the New Years Day parade. Am I losing all of my credibility now? Anyway, I remember freaking out when I saw a McDonald’s. And I bought a watch from where? The Disney Store.

    June 3, 2011
    • MTM didn’t find out I was a cheerleader until my 20th high school reunion. He made endless fun of me. πŸ™‚

      Do you still have the watch? What was on it?

      June 3, 2011
      • Lou Mello #

        great idea for the next District Conference, we will get all the ex-cheerleaders together to lead us in cheers and cartwheels and tumbling. You’ll be the Queen Cheerleader!!

        June 3, 2011
      • Lou, at my school, we were not allowed to tumble because someone might see our bloomers and think lustful thoughts. It was the only thing that helped me make the team, because I cannot even do a somersault.

        June 3, 2011
  2. Grace #

    I made the happy mistake of linking to the Sexy and 17 song and listening while reading. Your words and that song took me back to a time I couldn’t wait to leave home thinking I knew it all. Now I know I didn’t have a clue and still don’t!

    Thanks for the flashback πŸ™‚

    June 3, 2011
    • You are welcome, Grace. I am glad you matched the song to the words of the post. Sometimes, it gives added depth to the reading. I still don’t know anything, either. You are not alone. πŸ™‚

      June 3, 2011
  3. Lori #

    Wow! Once again we have something in common, though we are miles and years apart. I was a Junior from Meridian High School (Idaho) the year was 1976, and we went to Washington DC and New York. Holy Heck! Can you say fish out of water? I remember all the monuments but the Washington monument, well, that one I decided to run all the way down the stairs just to say I did it (yeah, still do things like that), oh, and to get a good seat on the bus. There were a lot of things that stood out about Washington DC – how clean it was. New York? They were having a garbage strike and that was the first time I saw puke on the streets along with garbage and people sleeping alonside buildings…that and some freak running up the escalator in Macy’s to look up my dress. CREEP! Oh yeah, Macy’s. *sigh* First time I’d ever been in a store that had more than one levels and a dedicated level to….say it with me girls….SHOES! Heaven.

    Well thanks again for tipping the memory. Made me smile and growl this morning. πŸ˜‰

    June 3, 2011
    • DC is still one of the cleanest places I have ever been. But of course it would be, because that’s the way things work.

      I don’t know what I would’ve done as a senior in NY. The school I attended took boys up there on mission trips, but I never got to do it.

      I still get a rush from the shoe sections of any department store in NY. Still. Everything tingled just trying to take them all in and decide which one I will try but not buy first. πŸ™‚

      June 3, 2011
  4. brett #

    Beautiful piece, Andra… πŸ™‚

    June 3, 2011
  5. Lou Mello #

    Drove up to Raleigh this am at 4:30 so missed the early dawn of Andra-Diteness…

    It’s great that you had a chance to go back and do it again when you can really appreciate it, it’s fun at 17, but, doesn’t have much real meaning.

    My first time in DC was probably as a 27 or 28 year old and it was on business, but, I had a friend there and I took an extra day to see as much as much as I could. It was Spring and Cherry Blossom time and we had a great time seeing some of the Smithsonian, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, etc. I did not get to the Jefferson Memorial and that will be first on my list when the lovely Miss TK and I set up time to visit for sightseeing.

    I have been back to DC many times since that first trip, but, usually just in and out in a day or two on biz and no sightseeing.

    Speaking of Macy’c in NYC, do they still have the little wooden escalator? That was so cool, it was just a small connector escalator, but, the steps were all made of wood, really neat.

    June 3, 2011
    • I am sure your Grand Poobah-ness will bring you to DC at some point, no? MTM is working, and I tag along and sightsee after I get my own work done. (IF the fare is cheap enough.)

      You crammed all that in one extra day, Lou?? Really?? I am impressed.

      And, I don’t know about the wooden escalator at Macy’s. My Mom and I went in there together once and did not make it out of the purse department.

      June 3, 2011
  6. JanetLee #

    The National Mall is my favorite place for walking. Last time I was there, had to share it with 200.000+ other people. I danced with a total stranger to the O-Jay’s “Love Train”, mourned the decline of Ozzy Osbourne’s vocal strength and carried a picture of my aunt on a stick.

    June 3, 2011
    • Where were you? I was there, too. πŸ™‚

      June 3, 2011
      • JanetLee #

        We were squished up on the right side just beyond the first aid tent. Then moved off to, I think, Jefferson Avenue to get out of the crowd. We stayed at the Club Quarter hotel. We didn’t get there until the morning of the rally, so were way back in the crowd, about three jumbotrons back from the stage.

        June 3, 2011
      • We stayed the night before and still ended up squished on the left side, 2 jumbotrons back from the stage. Couldn’t see anything but the tv. It was funny that we ended up standing behind a woman from Aiken SC. Funny how we South Carolina folks find each other in masses of humanity. πŸ™‚

        June 3, 2011
  7. andria #

    The first time I went to DC I was also seventeen (and not nearly as sexy as I thought I was, in my Guess jeans, jelly shoes, and regrettable hair) and was there with my parents to look at colleges. We toured Georgetown, American, and George Washington Universities, and were too exhausted after all that to do much else. My parents said we could go to one tourist spot only, my choice. Since I was certain I would end up going to college in DC, I thought I’d have plenty of time to explore the historical landmarks at a later date, so I chose the Hirshorn. And had my mind utterly blown by some amazing modern art installations. It changed the way I thought about art forever, so I don’t regret my choice, but I do regret never seeing the Jefferson Memorial. Thanks for letting me see it through your eyes.

    The second time I went to DC I was already in college (in SC, as it turned out) visiting a friend with an internship on Capitol Hill, and more concerned with beer, bars, and boys to even notice the history. But that’s a story for another time.

    Basically, I really need to go back to DC and do it right one of these days.

    June 3, 2011
    • I will visit with you anytime. πŸ™‚ And maybe that should be sooner rather than later. πŸ˜‰

      I love the stories of your visits. It is always interesting what we value at our various stages of life.

      June 3, 2011
  8. Linda Watkins (Mom) #

    How long have I been wanting to go to Washington DC?? If I could go, I wouldn’t worry one bit about being sexy – I would just try to see all the history I could see.

    June 3, 2011
  9. Jill Clary Stevenson #

    No I wasn’t sexy at seventeen – Janis Ian sums it up perfectly!

    June 3, 2011
  10. Teresa Mello #

    Never been to DC…but would love to go. Maybe Lou and I will get there one of these days.

    Those field trips are so wasted on 17/18 year olds. My senior class went to an amusement park in Ohio….Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH. Perfect place for a bunch of hormone enraged teenagers! Don’t even get to spend the night….drive up early in the morning…stay all day…drive back late.

    I think I felt sexy when I was 22.

    June 3, 2011
    • Yeah. I think my class would’ve been much more impressed by a trip to Carowinds.

      Are you still studying?

      June 3, 2011
  11. Andra, this is some of the most lovely writing you’ve put out there. Nostalgic, introspective, longing, but totally present in the moment.

    It evoked my first trip to DC when I was 14 (1970) (and on the “Western Tour for Boys and Girls” shepherded by the Gravelys and Cockfields from Lake City. 2, 45 passenger Trailways buses, one for girls and one for boys). Somewhere there is the not-sexy photo of me standing on the steps of the National Archives, either prior to or just after seeing the Constitution.

    I, too, went to the museums as did Andria, and loved so much of what I saw. The Hirshorn sculpture garden stands out in my mind too.

    As we went north, we stopped in NYC and attended the Broadway production of “1776”, dined in a Kosher cafeteria (where I saw and talked to the first Hasidim I’d ever met–I had lots of Jewish friends in my hometown, but no Hasidim), then on to Maine and Canada.

    The next year, the “Western Tour for Boys and Girls” actually went West! Those two trips were and still are the most extensive travel I’ve done in North America. I am hoping to make more of that happen in our lives in the coming years.

    June 5, 2011
    • I wish I could remember details like yours, Cheryl. It would at least mean I appreciated something from the trip besides ugly clothing and the opportunity to flirt.

      And, I cannot believe my school didn’t have separate buses for boys and girls. When we went most places, we had to separate by sex – girls in front; boys in back. Oh, wait. That didn’t come out right……….

      June 5, 2011

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