We went to the "Taste of Vermont" reception as guests of my cousin, who works for Senator Leahy (as I did about 20 years ago). The event was in the Russell Senate Office Building, which is the most beautiful of any of the congressional office buildings. All of the floors in the hallway are solid marble--the bathroom floors are marble. The doors are all heavy dark wood, about 10-12 feet tall with transoms on top. The ceilings are about 20 feet high in the halls. The ceilings of the various hearing and caucus rooms are ornate.
The kids had a wonderful time. Edith ate chocolate and ice cream for dinner, with a few cookies sprinkled on top. They were given clip-on lights and rubber cows and basil and thyme seeds for our garden. Cabot cheese pens. Little bottles of maple syrup. We came home with only four, although I swear Edith had taken more than that. On the way back, we were stopped by two different Capitol Police Officers who wanted to give the kids stickers. In short, it was something like Green Mountain State Halloween. While I was looking for a women's bathroom in which I could change Robert (mysteriously, the third floor of Russell has at least 5 men's rooms, and only the one women's room), we wandered by various senator's offices, all closed for business for the day. Edith wanted her picture taken in front of John Kerry's office. She was only 4 in 2004, but she was sure Kerry won the election because her nursery school class had voted and he had won. She was upset for days. She had a bobble-head doll of Kerry that she kept in her room for over a year.
A helpful Senate aide walking by while I was about to take a photo of just the two kids in front of the Capitol Dome took the picture of the three of us. I have a deeply seated, sentimental patriotism, and I really think that the U.S. Capitol is the most beautiful building in the world, which I told Edith and Robert. Despite my own cynicism and frank practicality about politics, I still really believe in and hope for what I see as the American ideal: justice and equality for all people. Every once in a while when I get off the Metro at Union Station, and the time of year is just right such that you see, as intended, the Dome framed in the arch of the train station, I choke up a little. No matter how horrible our leadership (or pathetic), the Dome rises above all of us as a standard to which we must aspire, if we choose to look up at it. I see it, those days, as a challenge and a rebuke to all of us. Then there are those weeks at a time when the trees have leafed out and have grown tall enough to obscure the Dome from sight from that angle of approach.