Thursday, November 23, 2023

MLK sites

By the time we got to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park, everyone was ready for lunch. Technically, I suppose we were hungry before we even left the state capitol building (since the MLK area is only about a mile away). The first thing we did, then, was eat our picnic lunch.

Here's Benjamin, his mouth stuffed with sandwich, pretending to be Chewie (Cheese-bacca, if you will). If you can't tell, he's draped a package of string cheese across his chest.

Now, we were excited to finally get back to this historic park because we'd originally made plans to visit in January, having just returned from a quick trip to Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. We thought it would be a nice follow-up to our walk across the Edmund Pettis Bridge and our tour of the Alabama State Capitol. 

But then, as I recall, we got sick. And then life just kept getting in the way and...we didn't make it downtown until today.

Nothing like out-of-town visitors to kick you into high gear! We were happy to share the experience with our wonderful aunts.

Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander did the Junior Ranger program while we were there and earned their badges. I'm not sure how much they gleaned from the exhibits, however, because I'm afraid I wasn't great at leading them through the museum.

Here's the thing: the entire concept of the "Born to Lead" exhibits were simply not designed with me in mind. In 2019, I wrote that "in the big room they had these weird circle-cubicles with pictures and information to read and a video to watch, so they were interesting, but it really killed the flow of the room." This year I will add that it also was difficult for me to be in so small of a space, with a television screen blaring at me, while trying to read the captions on the walls, while trying to be mindful about traffic wanting to come into the little cubicle from the outside. It's just...not the ideal setup for me. And that's fine. Not everything needs to be the ideal setup for me. I can learn about MLK in other ways. 

I will also add that the D.R.E.A.M. Gallery was much more to my liking (it's more open and I like that).

I will also add that Alexander wore the same jacket to the MLK sites in 2019 that Phoebe wore today. That makes sense because 2019 was (somehow) 4 years ago and Phoebe is 4 years younger than Alexander (so 4 years ago Alexander was only 2 years old). I'm not really clear on how this* happened...but the math checks I'm going to have go with it. 

*My children growing up right before my very eyes.

Phoebe was so jealous of the kids' junior ranger booklets and kept begging for her own "maff" to do. I didn't want to get an entire junior ranger booklet for her, though, so I just dug around in the diaper bag until I found a piece of paper for her to colour on (it's actually a junior ranger paper from Castillo de San Marcos that, yes, has apparently been in my diaper bag since May).

Here's Zoë with her completed workbook:

She wrote that part of her dream is to be a national park ranger, since they protect historic sites and wildlife. That, of course, is one of Benjamin's dreams as well.

The Ebenezer Baptist Church was closed to visitors today, but we saw the outside of it and visited The King Center. Here's everyone by the reflection pool:

There are a lot more artifacts at The King Center than there are at the park visitor's center—clothing of MLK's and other things like that. Here's Phoebe in her yellow sweater (that used to be Alexander's yellow sweater) by a beautiful yellow dress of Coretta Scott King's.

This isn't the best picture, but these are evidently the last flowers Martin Luther King Jr. sent to Coretta. They are artificial since he wanted "to send flowers that would last," which I think is a very tender gesture. I honestly don't understand how he had time to send flowers (and have my suspicions that someone may have sent them on his behalf), given the fact that he was shot at 6:01 PM and then was transferred to the hospital—a good twenty minute drive—and then also had emergency surgery before passing away at 7:05 PM. But when we are dying, we all need a helper or two (I mean, I'm not dying and I have access to the internet and I think it might take me a full hour to figure out how to send someone flowers) and I can imagine one of his final requests being to have his friends send Coretta "flowers that would last" (whether those words were uttered as he was losing consciousness, or whether it was a pre-arranged wish). I don't wish to diminish the act; I'm merely wondering about the details. Anyway, this was just one of the items in the museum that got me wondering about things, not the least of which was how hard it is to tell a story.

After we finished up at The King Center, we started our walk back to the parking lot. When we got to the corner of Auburn and Boulevard (about in the middle of the picture below), Andrew dashed across the street with about half the family, but the rest of us missed the walk signal and had to wait for the next one. 

While we were waiting, I hollered across the street, "Should we walk down to his birth home?"

"Nah," said Andrew, looking down the street.

"It's literally right there," I said. "We drove all this way and the house is literally right there!"

"Meh," said Andrew, looking down the street.

"Your sisters haven't seen it and it's right there!"

Andrew then surprised us all by dashing across Boulevard (when we had been waiting for the light to change so we could cross Auburn to meet up with him), so we followed suit and quickly crossed Boulevard as well and then waited for Andrew and his crew to catch up with us (in front of the fire station #6, which I also wanted to go into, but evidently that was overruled).

From there it's about a one-minute walk to the King residence.

"You hesitated to walk this far?" Grandpa laughed.

"Like I said," I...said... "We came all this way and the house is right there!"

So, we saw the house where Martin Luther King Jr. was born, just six weeks or so before Grandpa Frank was born. That was strange for the kids to think about—that Martin Luther King Jr. sometimes seems like ancient history, but that he was only as old as their great-grandfather (who is rather old, it's true (he is 94), but who is alive). 

Here are a few pictures of Phoebe walking back to the car in Daddy's arms:

She was in a very happy mood and was grinning at everyone (and throwing her weight around, causing Daddy to lose his balance a few times):

All in all, a good (if not exhausting) day!

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