I sometimes entertain myself by imagining places I would haunt if I were a ghost. I wouldn't want to scare anyone: These would be places I would hang out if I wanted to fill myself up with the human interactions and feelings that I was missing as a ghost. When we lived in Philly, I decided that my haunt of choice would be the Clark Park Farmers' Market, an awesome inner-city, diverse, multi-generational experience of food, entertainment, and play. Also, whoopie pies.
August 2008; Shmoo was 3.75 and Roo was 11 months, at peak chubbosity.
Yesterday, at the end of a full DC day of the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Blossom Kite Festival, and paddle boats on the Tidal Basin, we stopped at the World War II Memorial. The memorial features a large, oval pool/fountain, currently empty. There are discrete signs saying "no wading" but no other guidance on how to interact with the monument. The place was lively with families. People were basking in the sunny weather as if they had just come out of hibernation. Kids were skateboarding, scootering, and running around and within the pool. Shmoo, who is not usually outgoing with new people, quickly joined a game of tag with three other boys his age. Roo jumped around with the exhuberance of a spring lamb.
I am married to a park ranger,* so one would think I'd have a sense for what is allowed at the memorials to evoke the appropriate, reflective, somber mood. But I am also a huge proponent of unstructured play and running around in fresh air. So I let the kids play. Eventually, a ranger came around and asked people to leave the area that is normally under water. As we walked by the bas-relief sculpture panels (which show some of the diverse roles veterans played in the war effort) on our way to the Metro stop, it crossed my mind that the people whom the memorial is for (indeed, great-grandparents of my kids and probably many of the other kiddos present) would be in favor of the frolicking children. Their ghosts would approve of the joy in this human experience.
As I sat in Quaker Meeting this Easter morning, mulling over a message about Jesus' crucifixion, the third part of the tryptic came to me. The crucified Jesus, coming back as a ghost, would not want us to feel guilty, but rather to revel in this living joy.
This story was my extemporaneous message at Quaker Meeting this morning. Also, I do not blame the ranger at all for doing his job nor the park service for restricting the fountain area.
*HPR began his work shift at 3:30, so he was not with us at the WWII Memorial.