I was desperate to take in as much of D.C. as I could, opting to walk from the Holiday Inn where our group was staying---Did you catch that? Holiday Inn...--- the almost 1.2 miles to the Museum. I barely noticed the distance, and was even there about 25 minutes before it opened. I literally could not express my level of excitement. I had no idea I would have the opportunity to check it out, as our agenda for the remaining few days was packed and it simply didn’t seem as though any time would free up.
For that reason, and for the great truth I’m about to reveal to you, I believe that God wanted me to have the opportunity to see the Museum. It wasn’t until I returned from the trip that I actually happened upon a virtual tour. For someone as tech savvy as myself, it was beyond me why I hadn’t considered looking up the museum online at any time before I landed in Washington, D.C. It was definitely a divinely inspired, and orchestrated, opportunity.
There was only one real thing I wanted to accomplish during my visit. I wanted---no, I needed---to see the Pony Express exhibit.
But she didn’t. She chose the Pony Express.
After asking a very nice lady at the information desk the whereabouts of this particular exhibit, I made my way deeper into the hallowed halls of the museum.
It wasn’t hard to see how Oliver got lost in it. The space is beautiful and awe-inspiring and what made it even better is that I was there so early, I had the space to myself, which, sans other patrons, made it feel even grander.
Needless to say, even as I tried to slow myself from bypassing the preceding exhibition spaces, my heart was set on the Pony Express. And I have to say, what I came upon surprised me.
The Pony Express exhibit isn’t a grand open space one could physically get lost in. It’s a small room, that, if you’re texting or walk too quickly, could easily be missed. As I stood in front of the large glass display in the wall, one question repeated itself in my mind:
Why would I choose here to leave my husband?
As I stood there in my American Eagle flats, I tried to fit into Paris-label kitten heels that I probably had no business, and no life experience, to justify trying to fit myself into.
But Martha does everything for a reason, and this place meant something, so I pressed on. And then I saw two words printed repeatedly above two distinct sections of the exhibit:
To understand why Martha chose the Pony Express exhibit, and how it applies, requires a bit of a history lesson.
The Pony Express, a relay system of horses that carried mail across the 1,966-mile-long “central route” between Missouri and California, lasted from April 1860-October 1861. It was stopgap mail delivery solution until eastern and western transcontinental telegraph lines could be connected. Once completed, there was no longer a need for the Pony Express.
During its short lifespan, a considerable amount of lore surrounded the Pony Express and its riders, leading to 19th century dime novels that romanticized rider’s journeys despite the realities of trying weather and harsh terrain that made the trips anything but romantic.
It’s about to get crazy right here, Postables. Are you ready?
Okay, let’s do this!
Much like the Pony Express, Holly and Oliver’s marriage had a certain amount of lore associated with it. First, there’s the life or death tale surrounding how they met. Oliver saving Holly just before her car rolled off the side of the cliff, to carrying her back to his car and keeping her warm until the snowplow could save them from the blizzard the following day, and eventually marrying his damsel in distress, has all the makings of a 19th century dime novel filled with romance and heroics. How could one help but be swept up into a story like that? This more than covers the romance aspects.
Now the reality. While meeting each other under the kinds of circumstance under which Holly and Oliver met could very well have led to a good and happy marriage, the reality is that “romance can only survive on swagger and charisma for so long,” as Oliver so appropriately put it. And, as Holly put it, “You leave us alone in a car with only the two of use to heat each other up and we communicate just fine...But talking with actual words [was something the pair] was never really good at." Unlike the transcontinental telegraph lines, Holly and Oliver never quite figured out how to connect with each other through words. Oliver chose not to communicate and Holly could only do it through poems. Without overcoming that gap, there's no way they could have survived. So, much like the stopgap Pony Express, their marriage also suffered a short lifespan due to a lack of permanent solution to their communication problem.
Romance only lasts so long in reality. Any healthy relationship takes a considerable amount of work on the part of both parties, and, unless you put in that work, and pick each other up when you fall short, you can't expect things to last long.
I won't say I left the Pony Express exhibit knowing all this. In fact, it would have been impossible to put these pieces together without seeing From Paris with Love. I will say, however, that it's something I won't forget and hope to see how the show will handle it, and the space, in SSD3. Will 'Romance versus Reality' be the subject of the exhibit, or will it be some innocuous space with no context and no meaning, just some place that Holly left Oliver?
Either way, Martha's decision to harness the history of the Pony Express exhibit is absolutely brilliant. And if she didn't choose it on purpose, then I truly believe this may be an argument that her writing is more divinely inspired than we give it credit for!
This makes you want to make the pilgrimage yourself, doesn't it?
Never been to the National Postal Museum? Want to visit the Pony Express exhibit without ever leaving the comforts of home? Take the virtual tour!
Always Finding Something Beautifully Complicated,