In the cherry blossom’s shade
there’s no such thing
as a stranger.
Twenty years ago, I was a college intern at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History. I worked in the Division of Domestic Life, a name which makes me giggle as I had no intentions of doing anything “domestic” with my life. Basically, I was responsible for dusting and vacuuming exhibits, cataloging and tagging wedding cake toppers (the only artifacts they would let me touch), and I even got to work a few days in the Star Trek exhibit over at Air and Space.
It was an exciting time in my life. I was a Senior in college (now you know how old I am), a girl from a small town gaining valuable experience and course credits in her chosen field. And I reveled in being a young woman in the city. I was proud to drive every morning, very early, to the Metro Station and fight my way to a parking space. I loved the half-hour ride into Washington, DC, with the crush of other commuters, and I enjoyed people-watching those city dwellers with their strange ways. I was careful not to fall asleep, so I would make my transfer at Metro Center to the Blue Line train.
By the time I reached my stop, Smithsonian, the crowd on the train had changed from focused, downtown workers to sightseers with fanny packs and large cameras jutting out in all directions. It was rather comical! Inevitably I would help some confused tourist with his ticket – just put it in here, and voila, it pops out here – as I raced to the escalator. I was late (again) and had to run up the moving stairs to get past the slow pack of visitors.
But one day in late March, what I saw at the top of those steps made me stop in my tracks. As I turned around, I could see the Jefferson Memorial and the Reflecting Pool in the distance. And the cherry blossoms. Oh my.
It was the first time I had seen them not on television, and they were everything you could imagine them to be. Literally one day they were tight little buds, and the next day they had burst forth into full bloom. I’m sure my jaw dropped. Reluctantly I made my way to the museum, glancing back to make sure they were still there.
At lunch, I grabbed my brown paper bag and raced over to the Reflecting Pool to enjoy my turkey and cheese in the shade of those magnificent trees. I knew how lucky I was to be in that place at that time – it is a memory I can never forget.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Tokyo’s gift of 3000 cherry trees to the city of Washington, DC. The trees have weathered the test of time and stand as reminders of international friendship and the beauty of nature. The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs through April 27th with special exhibits and performances in and around Washington, DC.
I probably will not make the festival this year, but the cherry blossoms are no stranger to me. I know that one day, I will again sit under their fragrant blooms, and like my twenty-something self, I will still be in complete awe of their beauty.
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com.