Nice days in D.C. with art and Ellie

Published 9:04 am Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Some days, they say, are better than others. It’s true. For me it was Christmas Eve and Day two weeks ago and for different reasons.

In recent years those days have often found me coming and going from the treatment center, or sick in bed from being there. This year, though, I was able to travel to the Washington, D.C., area to visit my daughter. We were delighted both boys could also go, and it was a fine family Christmas.

No longer is Christmas morning a frenzied event with wrapping paper and bows flying about, and that’s fine with me. This year the boys were more concerned about their tee times than Santa Claus. Their sister stayed busy catching up on Batesville news and what her old North Delta classmates were doing.

So no one cared that I wanted to spend all of Christmas Eve wandering the hallways of the National Gallery of Art. The architecture of the museum is amazing, and the current exhibits were marvelous.

There is no admission fee at the national museum, although parking was $26 for the day. How ironic and funny that it cost almost $20 for three rides of three minutes each at Springfest in Batesville, and nothing to see the tremendous artwork on display at one of the nation’s premier museums.

The West Building of the museum was a fabulous day for me. Everybody likes something, and I like to look at art. Sculptures interest me – and we saw some fabulous work – but it’s oil on canvas, or wood, that I most enjoy.

A large exhibition of Dutch and Flemish artists were on display to my delight. My dear wife accompanied me and she also enjoyed the art, for about an hour. But, she was very indulgent and kind and allowed me to look at everything my eyes could manage until closing time. We took a break to eat at the food trucks, and she spent lots of time doing something called “getting in my steps.”

We saw paintings and pieces that I’ve only seen in books and documentaries. Even better was artwork by famous painters and their lesser known peers that aren’t in popular culture, paintings I saw for the first time.

I took lots of photos to help me remember, but one 18th century painting with a skull theme had a sign that prohibited photography. Because it was late on Christmas Eve when the museum wasn’t crowded I almost snapped a photo anyway. I was afraid the cameras would catch me and agents would swarm down from the top of the dome, and I can’t run like Nicholas Cage in National Treasure, so I kept my phone in my pocket.

If you go, don’t plan much time for the East Building. We had a couple of good laughs at the contemporary art there, and had some fun watching the weirdos that were staring at the weird art. Save your time for the classics. It’s easier on your eyes and sanity.

One exhibit did bring back an unpleasant memory. It was a work of junk and paint that looked exactly like a mess I made in the garage when I was 10 years old. I got a whipping for the same thing this other fellow called art and put on display.

It was a good Christmas Eve and the pleasant weather made for nice walks across the National Mall. The police in D.C. keep the vagrants hemmed up in a couple of areas that we avoided, and only one person accosted us for money. He was trying to sell toboggans on a 75 degree day without much luck.

Even better was a wonderful experience the next day. On Christmas evening we were invited to the home of our daughter’s friends for dinner. That couple’s daughter is a beautiful child of seven, with a sparkling personality, and an intellect and curiosity far above her age.

I was not surprised that Ellie is so well mannered, charming, and smart as a whip. Her parents are professionals in the D.C. area, and she is obviously being reared with graceful guidance not often seen among our youth.

What did surprise me was Ellie’s delight upon seeing and reading a copy of The Panolian. It was her first ever newspaper to see and hold. She is very bright and was immediately drawn to these strange pages.

She was enthralled with the idea that stories about people in a town were gathered together, sometimes with photos, and published for all to see. At first, she was even unsure how to open and turn the pages, but quickly caught on and scanned each page.
Ellie was surprised to see other smaller papers fall out of The Panolian when she opened it. When she realized it was advertisements for stores with trademarks she recognized, and understood the newspaper was a way to get sale papers to customers, she beamed. That’s a good idea, she said. (See, I told you she was smart.)

She was looking at the edition that had Letters to Santa, and was amazed that newspapers gathered those and printed them for everyone to see. I think she read every letter, howling with glee as she found each letter somehow funnier than the last.

It didn’t take long for her to ask the natural question – Why don’t we get a newspaper at our house?

Sadly, it’s because there isn’t a local newspaper where she lives.

Washington, Annapolis, and Baltimore all have major daily papers, but why would her parents subscribe to those? They have no local news. There are a couple of Pennywise-type publications at convenience stores, but no local newspaper with local stories about local people.

The internet can provide lots of useful information, but look closely at the pages of your hometown newspaper. For the most part, every word, sentence, and paragraph comprises bits of news that you simply can’t learn anywhere else.

Be thankful, Panola County, we live in an area where merchants and business leaders see the vital role a hometown newspaper plays in a well rounded community. Young Ellie loved her first newspaper experience. She read things about people she didn’t know and looked at pictures of folks she will never meet, and enjoyed every word.

She was really amazed to learn the people of Batesville and Panola County get a fresh newspaper every week. With more news and more local names and faces. Meanwhile, all across this nation, rural towns and counties (and even large ones like where Ellie lives) have lost their local paper.

Believe it or not, a photo of your kid on Facebook winning a spelling bee, or throwing a ball, just doesn’t have the same meaning as the ones you cut from the paper and put in scrapbooks.

The Panolian is fortunate to have strong advertising support and expanding readership – people who still like the feel of the printed edition each week. Many have commented recently about the added pages and color ads, and we thank you. Indeed, The Panolian is growing while other papers are shrinking.

I wish all families could experience the joy of passing a weekly newspaper around, each one finding something new and interesting to them. Hearing Ellie describe her adventure of reading her first newspaper rounded out a terrific Christmas Day for me, and renewed my resolve to keep The Panolian a relevant part of this county.

And for you, Ellie, because you have no hometown newspaper to read, all of The Panolian’s 2022 editions will be delivered (depending on the frailties of the U.S. Postal Service) to your home courtesy of the editor.

Your enthusiasm for the printed word and excitement to hold and read a newspaper cheered an old scribe’s heart.

For this, you now have the honor and prestige of belonging to a special and elite group of people – the circulation of The Panolian.

Ellie, I hope you enjoy forthcoming editions as much as you did your first.

Mind your parents, say your prayers, study your books, eat your vegetables, and read The Panolian. You will be the smartest pupil in your class.