Our Day at LeMay: America’s Car Museum


One of the things I love most about homeschooling is the fun adventures my kids and I get to participate in. Today was no exception. My girls and I headed to LeMay: America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington and we got to see hundreds of cars from Model T’s and Mini Coopers, to the rare Tucker, to my personal favorite, the 1930 Duesenberg Model J Convertible. (I recently saw a car just like it in the movie “Gatsby.”)

We were part of a group of 50 or so homeschoolers and our smaller group took a personal tour with a nice docent named Doug. He was knowledgeable and passionate about the cars, filled us in on fun facts, and pointed out details we may have otherwise missed.

Throughout our tour, Doug’s 7-year-old grandson kept catching up with us. He interrupted his grandpa without being scolded and generally ran amok through the four-story museum. His behavior kind of irritated me. But Doug stayed on track and we finished the tour a few minutes early so we had the added bonus of sitting in a 1923 Buick touring car and having our picture taken. And oh, what a picture! My teenager is “driving,” my preteen is in the back seat, and I’m apparently a floating head because I wore a green shirt…against the “green screen” where the museum’s background photo could be swapped out.

After the tour we had an hour to build cars out of recycled materials. When my daughters and I sat down at our table, little Ivan came and sat with us. He put his head down and sulked. I tried to talk to him but he just sat there. I asked, “Did you hear me?” and he mumbled a “yes.” He slunk out of his seat again and left the classroom. The instructor went to bring him back. Again, he sat at our table. My girls started to make their cars–the artistic one put a lot of thought into her design and came up with a great model and my teen quickly covered hers with colored tape and called it done. And there sat Ivan without a car, moping.

“Do you want to make a car?” I asked.

“I don’t know how,” he replied.

“I could help you. Scoot over. I’ll show you how the instructor told us to put on the chassis.”

He scooted.

This little boy who I’d seen as kind of a pill during our tour was actually pretty sweet. He just needed some attention. We had a long talk about his favorite cars and what makes them special and together we built a masterpiece. To me, it looked like scraps of paper and colored tape, and it kind of looked like someone had stepped on it.

But to Ivan…this scrappy little car was amazing. It had dual exhaust, and a third headlight right in the center, just like the Tucker in the museum. It may have been more tape than paper when it was finished, but Ivan was careful to remove any tape that touched the wheels so that it wouldn’t have any “drag” when he raced it on the Pinewood Derby track downstairs. As a finishing touch he’d printed the car’s name, Speed Racer, on the side in his best first-grade writing and wrote his own name on top.

When our time was up, he dashed off to find his grandpa to show him his car. Off he went, happy and proud of his hard work. And I thought how first impressions can often be wrong. That little boy wasn’t really bad or irritating, he just couldn’t keep himself occupied, and who could blame him for that? I wonder if Ivan’s car made it down the track as fast as he’d hoped. I sure hope so…after all, I did help build it!

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