Coloring Washington, D.C.

capital-color-bookI received “Our Nation’s Capital Coloring Book” when I was 6 years old, a gift from my oldest sister, who took a high school trip to Washington, D.C. From the moment I received it, I cherished it. My mother thought it was too nice a book to color in, so it was designated “for looking at only” until I was older. Each two-page spread featured a historic or scenic monument and a paragraph or two of description.

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society published the color-by-number book in 1965 for boys and girls “to stimulate an interest in the History of the United States of America.” Even though I wasn’t allowed to color in the book, my interest was stimulated and I was determined that someday I would go to Washington, D.C., and see those historic and scenic monuments myself. This spring when my college-age daughter moved to Washington, D.C., for an internship, it seemed that someday finally had arrived.

As I began planning for my D.C. trip, I decided to go back to the beginning, and I retrieved my coloring book from my keepsake trunk to take another look. At some point in my youth, my mother must have given the OK to color in the book, because tucked in the back I found a handwritten list of color names that matched a set of colored pencils to the book’s color key. Only one picture had been colored, the Statue of Freedom. I must have colored the page, because I can’t imagine that I would have let my younger brothers or sister color in my book. I stayed neatly within the lines with my meadow green, Pacific blue, and brown. Likely by the time I was allowed to color in it, I considered myself too old for coloring, and quit after completing the picture. But I took to heart the historical society’s hope that I would yearn to know more about “the great American traditions and ideals.”

In April 2015 I answered that yearning and traveled to Washington, D.C. My daughter, husband, and I saw the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials. We visited the memorials for World War II, the Korean War Veterans, and the Vietnam Veterans, as well as Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Navy Memorial. We also squeezed in trips to the National Air and Space Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Archives. And through it all, the cherry blossoms were lovely.

“Our Nation’s Capital Coloring Book” is still too nice to color in. But now I don’t need to. I have all the Washington, D.C., colors in my memory.

Laura Sternweis

P.S. And yes, I did see the Statue of Freedom. She was still visible above the scaffolding surrounding the capitol dome.


2 thoughts on “Coloring Washington, D.C.

  1. I too love our nation’s capital. The biggest regret of my life is not taking an unpaid internship in D.C., and then working some marginal side job for as long as necessary. But, my parents thought that taking an unpaid job was stupid. It was the only bad advice my folks ever gave me.


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