Monday, September 12, 2016

An Anniversary Trip

Today is the first day of school; it's also the first first day of school in the last sixteen years that I haven't been teaching. It feels great... and weird. I have a half-empty nest; both boys are launched, more or less, and I may not see them for a matter of months. My youngest is in her first year of high school. My teaching career spanned a very full 16 years; that's a third of my life. My pregnancy with Quarta was during my second year of teaching. So to cope with the disorientation and a bit of melancholy at not being in the thick of the whirlwind of teaching, here is my retrospective on the trip I took out to meet up with Steve and see Daniel off on his internship, over Labor Day weekend... which just happened to be Steve and my 24th anniversary. That's half of my life. I just now realized that. I guess one of the benefits of being retired is that you finally have time to do the math.

Bei-Bei the baby (well 1-year-old) panda eating a stick of bamboo. While Steve and Daniel drove out to the East Coast starting on Monday of that week, I flew out early Friday morning. After a very sound sleep on a comfortable hotel bed, we took a trip to the National Zoo on Saturday. I hadn't been there in decades, possibly since the early 80's, but I may have gone in the early 90's when I lived in the area. Daniel had never been. It was even better than I remembered... back then the pandas had never cooperated with my viewing time and all I ever saw of them was Hsing-Hsing's back as he slept. This is obviously a new and promising era in the saga of the National Zoo pandas, and the experience of her supreme cuteness (she also gobbled down an apple as we watched) may have been worth the price of the trip right there.
And I think this is Bei-Bei's older sister, Bao-Bao, playing and tumbling over the decor in her den.
Also high in the cute-factor is this Fennec Fox. You know, it was really fun to go to the zoo and see the beautiful and cute and fascinating animals, and the cute and ornery and fascinating kids, and not be the least bit stressed about the kids. I could get into this idea of not having to be the responsible adult all the time.

Most of our meals were in and around the Mosaic District in Merrifield, not far from the Dunn Loring Metro station and walking distance from our hotel. This brand new and very posh shopping area would have been unimaginable in the days when I was commuting daily from Dunn Loring. The Metro stop itself was only recognizable after you got really close and saw the entrance; the parking structure was not there 25 years ago at all, and only two buildings that had been in the general vicinity looked familiar at all... it was certainly not convenient to anyplace trendy. Steve had the bizarre experience of going by the address of the house he had lived in before we were married and seeing that it had been torn down and two new houses built on its lot.

Sunday, we attended McLean Presbyterian Church, which was where Steve and I met and were married, and where Daniel will be doing his internship. The church has changed a lot since then, but the essentials are the same, and the people have that lovely Virginia gentillesse that may strike a cynical newcomer as too good to be true... but it's legitimate. Interesting ironies of church life abound; Daniel's work experience supervisor is an old friend who led singing and played guitar back in our day; his host family are sweet people - he was the organist at our wedding and she was in choir with me. They also found a link I wasn't expecting; he had been on a missions trip to Chile with our good friend and favorite handyman, Scott Janku, who has made countless improvements to this old house. And it was great to reconnect with those friends who weren't out of town for the weekend.

We went to the National Cathedral, hoping to hear a choral service, but it had been cancelled, so we just enjoyed a leisurely tour of the stained glass windows and the gardens. Then we headed up to Fourth Presbyterian, where Steve grew up, for the evening service. Rob Norris, although retired as head pastor, happened to be preaching and it was a treat to hear him. Steve also connected with former Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders, including a gentleman who's been leading church youth since the 1950's.

Monday, our actual anniversary, Daniel left early to head down to Norfolk for a friend's wedding. That left Steve and me to wear our feet out (or maybe it was just my feet that weren't up to it) by going all over the American Indian museum and the American Art Museum/ National Portrait Gallery. There is a mezzanine level where they have "intermediate storage" of works, all crowded together and not so carefully curated, that might be in long-term storage (I'm thinking the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark). We ended up going top to bottom and spent the bulk of our time on the 3rd floor and mezzanine, recently restored to its Civil War era grandeur (we're told it was the site of Lincoln's 2nd innaugural ball). But we dutifully saw almost everything that we could.
Tuesday morning we had time to pay a visit to Mount Vernon with Daniel. It was a lovely day and a good time to benefit from all the historic presenters... they know their stuff and it's always nice to let them teach you. The house is impressive (I particularly like the bas-relief of G.W. as Cincinnatus in the study) and the farm and gardens are great to wander through. I particularly appreciated this prayer of George Washington, which was displayed by his tomb: George Washington's Prayer for his Country. We wouldn't be doing half bad even in this current political climate if we took this seriously. We ate at the restaurant on-site, and then it was time for Daniel to drop us off at Reagan National Airport and continue on to his retreat center for the Capital Fellows program. Our flight left after 5 Eastern time and we got back to PDX just a little after 8.

I intended to write this up quickly as a way to fill time this morning, but it ended up taking all day, off and on. An anxious day with concerns about my sister's health, but I think ending on a mostly positive note. I leave you with our group selfie as we were waiting to enter Mount Vernon.

1 comment:

garnet said...

Happy Anniversary! Mt. Vernon is one of our most enjoyable side trips when we were in Washington. It seemed a very hospitable place in contrast to Monticello. I remember the chairs where we sat and enjoyed the view and talked to other visitors.