New Yorkers say they could never live anywhere else because they love the Broadway theater so much. But how often do they actually go? About as often as Washingtonians who say they can't live without the Smithsonian and the Lincoln Memorial, but who actually visit them about once an eon.
Determined to do something about that, Father Levey walked up to his offspring last Sunday morning and declared, "You're nearly 4 years old, Emily. It's time we saw a little history."
As Mother Levey leapt at the opportunity to finish some overdue work, Dad and Daughter leapt for the car. We began with a building that Emily insisted on calling the Jefferson Monumorial.
That rotundity beside the Reflecting Pool turned out to be something of a flop. Emily liked the marble steps far better than the statue of the third president.
Nor did she have much use for the Jeffersonianisms that are engraved on the walls. When I read her the famous lines that begin, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," Emily dismissed them with a devastating piece of analysis. "You can't hold a truth," she declared, with a toss of the head.
We didn't do much better outside the White House. When I explained that President Reagan would not come out and talk to us, no matter how long or loud Emily whined, she lost interest.
But we struck gold at the Kennedy grave. Emily still thinks the name of the person buried there is President Kenny. But she was fascinated by my recital of what happened on Nov. 22, 1963, and shortly thereafter. Our graveside discussion went something like this:
"Did President Kenny die a long time ago, before I was born, Dad?"
"Yes, honey, he did. He died 18 years before you were born, in a place called Dallas, Texas."
"How did he die? Did he get sick?"
"He was riding in a convertible -- you know, a car without a roof -- and a man shot him with a rifle from the window of an office building."
"What's a rifle, Dad?"
"It's a big long gun. And the man who shot President Kennedy pointed the rifle out the window of the office building and shot him with it."
"Did President Kenny go to the hospital?"
"Yes, he did, hon. And lots of doctors tried to save his life, but they couldn't do it. And as soon as he died, they put his body on a plane and took him back here to Washington and buried him right here."
"Was President Kenny a Daddy?"
"Yes, he sure was. He had a daughter named Caroline and a son named John-John. They're both all grown up now, but when that man shot the rifle at the president and killed him, Caroline was about your age, and John-John was just a little guy, maybe two years old."
"So after their Dad died, was their Mom the only one who took them to school?"
"I suppose so, yes. But Caroline and John-John didn't go to school for about four days after their Dad was killed. In fact, Em, the whole country kind of stopped. Nobody did anything for four days because they were so sad and upset."
"Did Caroline and John-John cry?"
"Of course they did. The whole country cried."
"Did Mommy cry?"
"Sure, she did. And so did your Grandmas and Grandpas. And hundreds of people who came to the funeral, they cried, too."
"Did the man who shot President Kenny cry?"
"I don't know, Em, but I doubt it. You know what happened to him? This is really incredible, honey. His name was Lee Harvey Oswald, and a man named Jack Ruby shot him and killed him only a couple of days after Lee shot the president."
"Why did Jack shoot Lee?"
"Nobody's ever been absolutely sure. But Jack Ruby shot him on national television. It wasn't pretend; it was real. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen."
"Did anybody shoot Jack, Daddy?"
"No, honey. They put him in jail and he got sick and died there a few years later."
"Did President Kenny have a wife?"
"He certainly did. Her name was Jacqueline. She was Caroline and John-John's Mommy."
"Did she have lots of pretty dresses?"
"Lots of them. I'll show you her picture when we get home. A lot of people think she's a very, very pretty lady. It was all so sad."
You never know how much sinks into a 4-year-old head. But later that day, Emily was telling her grandfather about visiting the Kennedy grave. He got out a history book, and showed her pictures of Lee, and Jack, and Caroline, and John-John saluting his father's casket, and Jacqueline in a certain blood-spattered pink dress.
"You know, Grandpa, for four days, nobody did anything because they were so sad," Emily announced to him. "And you know, John-John's Daddy couldn't take him to school any more."
Already, in her own way, a child of the '80s appreciates the pivotal event of the '60s.