PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: MOUNT VERNON, HOME OF PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON
Welcome to the final stop in our series about travel destinations related to American presidents. Now we’ll visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon. It’s an amazing place to visit and everyone should go there, but rather than tell you a lot of historical information you can get for yourself from other sources -which I hope my other blogs in this series inspire you to do – I’m going to tell you the thing I remember most about my visit to Mount Vernon.
On the day in 1969 when we visited Mount Vernon, we were up early and were among the first to tour the house – but the house was not all there was to see. When they ushered us out the back door, they invited us to inspect the grounds. Behind the house were a series of small wooden structures with a variety of uses. My dad stuck his head inside a cookhouse and then turned around and said, “Where’s Susan?”
Every parent in the world knows that feeling. They were right next to you, clinging to the seam of your pant or skirt one minute and the next they were gone. I’m sure when my dad first inquired about Susan’s whereabouts I rolled my eyes and said to myself, “It’s always about Susan,” but that was merely my teen-aged angst. Fact is, I absolutely adored that little mite and felt more than a little responsibility towards her.
When we couldn’t locate Susan after a few minutes, we began to panic and ask for help. An hour later, my parents were talking with the security staff in low voices and Susan’s inability to swim was discussed. Pretty much everyone from fellow tourists to the Mount Vernon security staff was involved in the search for Susan. From the first moment, I’d wanted to set out on my own to find her, but that was the one thing no one was going to let me do. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I could help best by not getting lost myself and the best way for me to avoid that was to stay right there.
I was more than frustrated. My parents were frantic and the concern of everyone else was obvious. They’d chatted on their walkie talkies. They’d searched the property several times in their golf carts and on foot. They hadn’t found her and I wasn’t buying the Potomac theory. But the grow-ups didn’t know what to suggest next, short of searching the river.
God and I have always been close, but at the age of fourteen I still thought of my parents as the first line of inquiry. They provided food, shelter and new packages of notebook paper. In this strange place, Susan had been their responsibility, but they hadn’t been able to produce her since Dad visited the cookhouse. So finally, I contacted God. He gave me the message that she was OK and told me to open my eyes and look for her. That sort of ticked me off, because my eyes were almost raw from the way I’d been peering around trying to locate her.
I took a deep breath and began to scan the horizon once again. My eyes ran from the corner of the house across the lawn to a small white foot bridge. Before my brain even registered what I saw, I yelled, “There she is.” My parents glanced toward where I was pointing, but their expressions told me they couldn’t see what I did. I’d had enough. I broke into a run. Then I heard my dad yell, “It is Susan!” My parents were not far behind me as I ran across the immaculate lawn.
We all fell to our knees and hugged the tiny redhead we loved so much. Susan was glad to see us, but was a little bemused at the attention. She didn’t realize she had been lost. The couple who had found her hadn’t wanted to upset her by asking a lot of questions and because Susan was with the couple, the security staff didn’t think she was the child they were looking for. All’s well that ends well, but it was pretty dicey there for a while.
Traveling is an adventure. Some of the adventures are grand and others you would choose to live without if you could. To escape the hour of trauma for my family, I’d gladly have missed the opportunity to see Mount Vernon, but you never know ahead of time what will be trouble and what will be the most fun you ever had. You’ve got to get out there and risk losing your little sister. In most cases, the missing siblings turn up and you go have lunch somewhere. I don’t remember where we had lunch that day, but you can bet your bottom dollar no one got lost for the rest of the trip.
Did you ever lose your sibling at a major tourist attraction? Or were you the one that wandered over the bridge? We’d all like to hear about it.