I put in a call to The White House. 202-456-1414. I asked for the President’s office. The operator patched me through to a secretary. I asked her if I could interview the President. My dad was taking me to Washington DC for my 12th birthday and I wanted to stop by.

The secretary was very kind. She said the President was busy with [I forget if it was the coal miner’s strike or the Iranian hostage crisis] and wouldn’t be able to meet. So I asked for a signed photo of Amy Carter. Which was sent to me.

I then called back The White House. I asked for Rex Scouten. He was Chief Usher of the White House and had worked in The White House since the Truman years. I saw his name in “The World Almanac and Book of Facts”. He got on the phone. I asked him if I could interview him.

(Amy Carter was First Daughter at the time)
(Amy Carter was First Daughter at the time)

He said, “sure!” and when my dad and I visited, we went through a special door to meet him and he gave us a tour of The White House, even the areas where the First Family lived.

My dad saw the President walking down a hallway but I didn’t see him. My dad tried to get me to look but I wasn’t paying attention and missed the President.

Anyway, when I got back home I lied and told all my friends I saw the President.

Then we went to Capitol Hill. I had called ahead and we met with many Senators and Congressmen.

We met Paul Tsongas, for instance, who was a Senator from Massachusetts and later ran for President. Tsongas was famous for being the poorest person in the Senate.

He also was famous for saying, “no one ever said on their deathbed I wish I had spent more time at work”. He quit the Senate when he was diagnosed with cancer.

While my dad was busy with a business appointment, I went to visit Birch Bayh, the Senator from Indiana. It was his birthday too. His staff brought out his birthday cake and they sang Happy Birthday to both of us.

I can’t imagine letting my kids wander around Washington DC by themselves at the age of 12.

We had so much more freedom then. We could ride subways, explore cities, ride our bikes on highways, take rides with strangers, shoplift, explore the woods, smoke cigarettes, whatever we wanted. We were energy uncorked.

Kids aren’t allowed to have adventures anymore.

But adults stop having them also. We start worrying about the bills. We start regretting the past. I was at a party last night. Did I say the wrong thing? Did they like me?

When you skim a book you notice a word or two per page. Maybe sometimes you read a paragraph.

But you finish the book super fast. You’re done! Finished! And you think it’s an accomplishment.

Sometimes I find myself skimming life. Not noticing all the words right in front of me.

Saying “yes” to too many things I don’t want to do. Thinking too much of past or future. Trying very hard to just finish. That’s why time seems to move faster as we get older.

I’m going to try and stop time today. Or at least slow it down.

I don’t know.

Today will be an ordinary day. But maybe I can try to make every moment in it be extraordinary.

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