Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Eyes and Ears

I am an extremely visual person and I never realized how differently people learn until I gave birth to a son who is extremely aural. I rushed Ari to a pediatric optometrist when he was two years old thinking that there must be something wrong with his eyes when he switched off Sesame Street on television to go and listen to children's music on a cassette tape. When he was learning piano, he fought all attempts to make him more proficient at reading music. He has an incredible ear for languages, learns them easily, and is always amused that I cannot hear the subtle differences between how he pronounces a word and how it sounds when I say it. In the four years I spent in college learning to teach, this subject was never even mentioned. Perhaps it is now. In high school, I almost failed history because for two years I had a teacher who was too lazy to write down her test questions and dictated them instead. I'm sure she was also an aural learner.

This past weekend, I visited the newly-opened Newseum in Washington, D.C. It had been a very heavy week caring for Mom, even though she seems to be growing a little stronger each day. I had been looking forward to this respite with the kids and thanks to the cooperation of Beth, Adele, and Candi, we were able to leave Friday afternoon for D.C. Our membership at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia had entitled us to waive the $20 per person entrance fee at the Newseum. Unfortunately, I hadn't really thought through the fact that a museum dedicated to news reporting would visually conjure up for me all the horrific stories and Pulitzer Prize-winning photos of my lifetime (as well as a few lifetimes before me) in one fell swoop. Although there are a few light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek exhibits, the expression "if it bleeds, it leads," comes to its ultimate manifestation in this place. The Holocaust Museum in D.C., which I have visited a few times, did not have as deleterious an effect on my psyche as it only covered the one huge atrocity over a relatively short period of history. The Newseum is a visually-effective portrayal of atrocities of every type perpetrated by people on other people in the unholy name of war, greed, prejudice, politics and insanity. I read many facts about occurrences that I hadn't known before and wish I could forget. At the time they were happening, I had looked away to spare myself the unpleasant memories. On September 11 each year I am careful not to turn on the television. I saw much news footage in the first few hours of that day as events unfolded that is too horrible to contemplate and is still rattling around in my brain, imprinted on my too-sensitive visual memory. The twisted metal "sculpture" in the photo slideshow below was the communications tower at the very top of the World Trade Center.

After I had a couple of hours sleep to recover, the rest of the weekend was as delightful as I could have wished. We spent some time at Port Discovery, an incredible children's museum in Baltimore, where the girls and Jessica had the opportunity to paint their own faces. We had a delicious breakfast with Izzy at First Watch Cafe in Pikesville, observed people learning the trapeze along Baltimore's Inner Harbor, rode on the outdoor carousel there, and had a very leisurely lunch after Port Discovery at P.F. Chang. The girls were given Wikki Stix there instead of the usual crayons and were able to keep themselves amused all through the extremely slow but congenial service. We ordered almost every vegetarian offering on the menu and were very pleased with the food. On the way back to our car, we photographed Baltimore's Holocaust Memorial. We also revisited two of our favorite Chinese places, Michael's Noodle House, and Hollywood East Cafe in Wheaton.

Candi started a new job on Friday working for a company that produces wind energy, so I am losing my Tuesday/Thursday relief. The situation was great while it lasted. Saul and I had a private evening together on Tuesday at an unusually uncrowded Cheesecake Factory in King of Prussia Mall. I guess due to the stock market meltdown on Monday, both the restaurant and shopping mall were uncharacteristically quiet. Thursday, we were regaled with stories about the Galapagos trip by Larry over dinner at Red Lobster. Then, we had the best time watching the movie, "Journey to the Center of the Earth" with our 3D glasses. The movie was great fun and features my favorite movie star, Brendan Fraser. I was afraid I had already missed it in the theaters this busy summer. Fortunately, it was still playing and turned out to be a private screening. We were the only ones in the movie theater!

I'm really happy that Candi was able to find a job so quickly, but now I need to begin to make other arrangements for Mom's care. Perhaps eventually she will be able to recover enough to be left alone for short periods of time.

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