I feel like this Christmas break deserves some exposition, as it’s the most unusual/different Christmas I’ve had so far (the prize for most depressing goes to Xmas ’06, most magical goes to whatever year it was mom and dad put coconut and flour “snow” boot-and-butt-prints on the hearth and it didn’t occur to me that snow would melt).
First, let’s get a little context. Three-room, twelfth floor apartment. Starbucks on the ground floor. Four-foot fake tree on the mantle of the holographic fireplace. There’s no chimney, so I think Santa might have a little trouble. At the very least, he doesn’t have to worry about getting his rear burnt.
This is my first city-living experience. I have to use a white noise machine at night to drown out the trains and cars, but I can walk to Starbucks, Pier 1, Target, Hollywood Video, a Greek restaurant (and innumerable other eateries), BARNES AND NOBLE, and the Metro station which will take you to the most fabulous museums in the world. In fact, I can walk UNDERGROUND to the Metro station if I want, and window-shop along the way. There are two massive office buildings that hinder our view of the river. I realized yesterday that they’re the EPA. There’s a faint taste of irony lingering in my mouth.
This is also the closest I’ve come to base living. When you live on base, or very near one, things are different from normal life. For example, if you need food, you go to the commissary. If you need socks, you go to the PX (short for post-exchange). And if you’re in need of a special pick-me-up, you won’t find it at the commissary or the PX; for that, you’ll need to go the Class-Six.
So far I’ve seen one-millionth of the Museum of Natural History, the national Christmas tree, Richard Avendon’s Portraits of Power, and the official stables of the official horses of the official caisson for official military funerals, and stuff. The latter was a happy accident. We’d just been to the commissary, and for lunch in the basement of the officer’s club (if you want to eat upstairs, you have to dress nice), and we decided to wander over to the caisson stables to see if we could see the horses.
The caisson and the honor guard pull the coffins in funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as other official funerals and memorial services. They do 8 funerals a day. The horses are the most beautiful, majestic, lovely, velvety-nosed creatures I’ve ever seen. Some were even a massive 2,000 lbs. Their necks and heads were bigger than all of me! We fed carrots to Sgt York, the tiny (in comparison) horse that was saddled with Ronald Reagan’s cowboy boots backward in the stirrups for Reagan’s funeral.
We were shown around by Private S, who I took to be no older than me, judging by the fact that he was trying unsuccessfully to grow a mustache (I’ve never tried, but I imagine if I did I’d fail too). Pvt. S told us this was his first assignment after enlistment and basic training. He’s been there 6 months. This means Pvt. S is most likely younger than me. This struck me, and I’ve been thinking about it for a while. All my life, the men and women on the bases where my dad’s been have been older than me. They were adults, and I was a child. I don’t feel much like an adult now – I subsist mostly on daddy and mommy’s money, with the few exceptions of my spending money, grocery money, and a small amount of student loans. But – I’m the same age as (or even older than!) some of the soldiers now.
I dunno. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the juxtaposition of the parent-supported college life and the self-supported life of a soldier the same age. What makes us so different? And why do I still feel like a child?