Before Sainted Child and I traipsed down to Washington, D.C., for her Girl Scout troop's trip, Leader told me the four-day trip would likely give me a year's worth of columns.
There were some highs and lows - as I said before, Sainted Child, clueless as she is, tried to give me heart palpitations by attempting to get off at the wrong subway stop, but I lassoed and hog-tied her. The rest of the time we were on the subway, she was on a leash. Before you start crying about child abuse, keep in mind that I could have simply sat on her.
Sainted Child and I visited the World War II memorial at the same time a group of Honor Flight vets came in - Honor Flight Network brings vets, free of charge, to D.C. to view their memorials - and many active duty troops also were there, many of them assisting the older veterans and being photographed with them. There are no words for how absolutely moving and amazing it was to see these troops with these veterans and the respect and deference they paid to them. I heard "sir" and "thank you" more times from their lips in a 20-minute period than I do any other time in an entire month. Sainted Child had to restrain me from randomly hugging veterans and their active-duty escorts, although she shyly joined me in thanking them.
I took Sainted Child and Leader's Daughter to see the Hope Diamond, figuring that, since they were girls, they would be impressed by the world's largest cut diamond.
"Is that it?" they asked.
"It's 45 carats! Is that it? Are you kidding me?"
"It's just a necklace."
"If I had a 45-carat diamond, you had better believe it would be hanging around my neck. I'd probably commission people to walk around with me with signs, 'wearing the world's largest diamond!'"
"Wouldn't you be mugged?"
"If I could afford that necklace, I could afford an entire platoon of bodyguards."
"Can we go see the exhibit on the 48-foot-long boa constrictor?"
Yeah, sure, let's go look at fossil evidence of a snake big enough to swallow a draft horse, instead of diamonds. I had no idea it was supposedly cursed, and it's a pity, because maybe that would have interested them, and I wouldn't have had to look at giant snakes.
Luckily, the girls decided that, instead of eyeballing alligator-chomping snakes, they wanted to visit the butterfly pavilion, which was chock-full of live butterflies and flowers. Nothing bad could happen to me amongst butterflies and flowers, right?
The butterflies were just hanging out and could land on anything they wanted, and signs warned people to look out for "hitch-hikers" on exiting the exhibit. I figured I was safe, because I am mean and old and bitter, while the girls were young and sweet, and no butterfly would want to land on me.
However, someone had tipped the butterflies off to my fear of all things with more than four legs. Yes, I know that butterflies are colorful and fragile and I am much larger. That doesn't mean I want their insectiod legs on my bare skin.
Butterfly-With-A-Death-Wish landed on the map I had clenched in my hand, ready to swat away buggy terrors. How could I swat if it was on the swatter? It twitched its antennae at me in an aggressive manner, and I held very still, hoping it would find something else to do.
"Momma, there's a butterfly on you!" said the Sainted Child, who had been trying to coax every butterfly in the place to land on her outstretched hand. She seemed to be under the impression that this was a good thing.
"Momma knows. Flick it, won't you?"
"We're not supposed to touch them," she said, motioning for Leader's Daughter to join her.
"I think she's scared of it," Daughter said.
"I am not." It crept closer to my hand, ready to pounce. "AHHHH!"
"You are afraid of it."
"Don't be silly," I scoffed, holding the map with a forefinger and a thumb at arm's-length. By this time, the two girls were taking pictures of me being held hostage by the insect.
"I think you are," Daughter said. "You look scared." She showed me a photo as proof. I maintained that I looked more bored than scared. While we argued over this, the hostage-taker unfurled its wings and took off. I stifled a sigh of relief.
"I wasn't scared."
"Momma, it's not very Girl-Scouty to lie."
"Hush, I'm not lying. Let's go look at that giant boa constrictor now."
And I ushered them from the pavilion to the exhibit on the "Titanboa." At least it was dead.
(Wallace-Minger is The Weirton Daily Times community editor and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)