By Bill Steigerwald
“Grandpa does Washington”
JEFFERSON MEMORIAL, WASHINGTON, D.C.
It would have been an odd sight if any humans had been around to see three polar bears walking across the Tidal Basin and climbing the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. Open to the cold air and blowing snow, its cavernous icy marble interior was empty except for a 19-foot bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson.
“He’s as big as you are,” Junior said to Grandpa.
“He’s much bigger than I am,” Grandpa whispered as if he were in a church. “See those words engraved there on the wall. They’re from the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson is the human who wrote them.”
“What do they say?” Junior asked.
Grandpa smiled and winked at Mother. “They say, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all polar bears are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”
“Those words are some of the greatest ever written about freedom,” Mother said. “Too bad so many humans no longer believe in them,” she added, opening her brown suitcase and taking out a neatly folded stack of human clothes.
“These should fit,” Mother said, handing Grandpa a dark herringbone three-button wool suit, matching vest and wide-striped tie like the one she had seen Jimmy Stewart wearing in the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” “Your eyeglasses are in the breast pocket.”
“And here’s your costume, Junior,” Mother said, giving him a pair of home-made blue jeans and a Chicago Cubs T-shirt to go with his backpack and Cubs baseball cap. “And your glasses. Don’t ever take them off when we’re in the presence of humans.”
After Mother put on her black skirt, blouse and seashell pink blazer, she pulled out her pair of gray Kawasaki 704 eyeglasses and put them on. Except for her black nose, she looked eerily like Sarah Palin.
“What do you think, Dad?” Mother asked Grandpa. “They were a little pricy, even on the Internet. But I think they work.”
The three bears looked at each other’s outfits admiringly. They weren’t the latest fashions, but as far as any humans who looked at them could tell the trio looked like an ordinary – if large – family of humans who’d come to Washington to see the sights.
For several hours the three bears explored the snowy, deserted streets of downtown Washington. Grandpa had a long list of places he had always dreamed of visiting and they were all carefully plotted on the old map he carried.
They walked across the frozen Tidal Basin to the Washington Monument, where Grandpa hoped to take an elevator ride to the top. But it was closed because of the horrible weather, so instead they visited the National World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
As they strolled past the brightly lit White House, two wary policemen in a patrol car slowed down to look them over.
“Wave, Mother,” Grandpa said under his breath as the policeman driving the car shined a spotlight on them. “Wave, Junior.”
The policeman hesitated. He squinted his eyes. Something seemed very, very fishy. He unlocked the shotgun attached to the dashboard of his patrol car.