Our family tradition of a walk on New Year's Day took us to the National Mall this year and one of several stops we made was the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. I met a local artist in December who told me about an intriguing sculpture in the basement of the museum - a towering, naked giant. Only in my recollection, the artist called it a monster.
Cowering in a corner, the man who wasn't a monster seemed angry at first but the longer we looked, both Kent and I were struck by a profound sadness. The piece was eerily lifelike and I thought the in-your-face nakedness of it all might unsettle the kids. But no. I didn't hear any tittering, just curious comments.
"I think he looks like a baby giant," Desmond said.
The Ai Weiwei exhibit blew me away, particularly "Straight," the collection of rebar reclaimed from the schools that collapsed in the Sichaun earthquake several years ago that killed 68,000 people. "Cube Light" wowed the kids.
"It looks like an angel's body," Tobias said.
But the piece I think I'll remember most was a tree in the sculpture garden that I've surely walked past before (it's been there since 2007) but only really took notice of this day. It's called "Wish Tree" by Yoko Ono and it's one of many she's installed at museums worldwide.
The tree is filled with tiny tags that flitter in the wind, an especially pretty spectacle in the drab leaflessness of winter. A little girl wished for nail polish, many hoped for peace.
"I wish I wasn't like this," one read. Another:
I couldn't get over how perfect it was to come across the tree on the dawn of a new year, to consider our goals and hopes and dreams for 2013. "I wish for a jet pack," Tobias instructed us to write.
Desmond hoped for a good school year, Esme wants to fly (and get a new dog) and Josephine wished that every day could feel like a day in Maine.
As the kids read other wishes and busied with hanging their own, I puzzled over my own blank tag. I couldn't decide whether to go big - I wish for my loved ones to stay alive - or something smaller - Please bring a new dog for us to love. In the end, I decided on something specific and selfish: I wish to be healthy enough to finish the Raleigh Half Ironman.
I signed up for the summer race despite the fact that I don't run. I'll learn, I thought. Only since August, I haven't been able to get through a day without extraordinary, exhausting back pain and an MRI showed a heap of complications in my lumbar spine. Hopefully, the physical therapist I'm seeing now can get me squared away and my wish won't seem as impossible as it did the day I wrote it.