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Stop Two: Washington, D.C.

posted at 11:50 am
on Dec. 27, 2010

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Previous entry:
Stop One: Las Vegas

Next entry:
Stop Three: Detroit

Susie and I were in Alexandria for Christmas, and though the calendar says we were there for more than a week, I simply can’t believe it to be truly that long.

Time flew by, shopping and eating and sightseeing happened, and before we knew it, presents were opened and packed and we were standing next to the curb at the airport hugging each other and it was over…

Over the years we’ve been visiting, the Gardner’s house has felt more and more comfortable.  Part of that has been in my growing familiarity with them.

But part of that has been improvements in their house itself.  This time, there had been insulation blown into the attic, and new windows everywhere; the resulting lack of drafts and warmth throughout the house was simply wonderful.

Jan made several delicious meals: spicy bean soup with sour cream stands out, as does the plate of small steaks and salad we had.  Sister-in-law Debbie seemed as delicate and picky an eater as ever; I helped out by generously eating her share whenever I saw the opportunity. smile

There was also fudge, homemade, and caramel, standing at the ready any time anyone’s blood sugar dropped below 50%.  These holiday treats are Gardner family traditions; I heartily approve.

We spent a number of outings shopping, and Susie and I did something we’ve never done before.  We helped each other pick out gifts for ourselves. That meant that, for the most part, there was no surprise under the tree from each other on Christmas morning.

But on the other hand, we got presents we wanted, and a fun opportunity to shop with, and buy special things for, the other person. And we ended up with gifts that we might not otherwise have given; gifts that would be hard to return or difficult to be sure the other person will like.

In my case, it was a winter jacket that looks great and feels even better; in Susie’s, some red boots that I could never have picked out. I don’t know if we’ll do that again, but I now understand why some people shop for presents that way.

I also arranged to see Debbie (N.) a few times while we were in the area; she’s in Rockville, which is about an hour away.  Susie and I went to National Geographic headquarters and saw her office; she’s got a sweet set up.

Debbie had lunch with us at BGR, a burger place that tried to kill me with a thick egg nog milkshake and a burger the size of my newly enlarged heart. We then wandered over to the White House, and around the mall to be awed and humbled by the Lincoln Memorial, until we got so cold that Susie had to stay warm by getting angry at me.

Once we got into a cab, frozen nerves calmed and we were off the the Verizon Center for HOCKEY with Debbie’s new friend, a huge hockey fan.

The most interesting part of the game, other than the awesome 5-1 score for the team we were rooting for aka the RED team, was the “We Support the Troops” segment of the show, where they pick a soldier out of the attendees and show a little slide show of them in uniform and with family and everyone there says what a good thing it is that he’s a trooper.

It was *so* jingoistic and manipulative, I could barely believe it.  I mean, do they have an equally supportive segment for paramedics? Teachers? Search and rescue volunteers? Social workers? Poets? Astronauts? Nope.  This was America praising its own warriors, and the (sports) crowd loved it, in a way that would have been appalling in Canada.

We also asked Debbie to come over to Susie’s house the last day we were there, and I got the chance to talk about all the things we didn’t know about hers and my life. I had big news for her, she had big news for me; it really drove home how out of touch we were. Even WITH Facebook status updates.

Debbie seems to be in a pretty good state. Things are stable, and getting better, step by step by step. I really hope things continue that way.

The time with the Gardners, too, was wonderful. They were as kooky as any family can be, but in a loving way, and a way I’ve learned to love.

Matt wasn’t there; he decided to stay in New York for the holiday, and while that was disappointing for me, it was also a relief. The last time I’d seen him was on the cruise to Alaska, and that was super-tension filled between him and I and thus for the whole family.

Whether he declined to come because of not wanting to conflict with Susie and I, or for financial or vacation-time reasons, or even for his own unknowable reasons, I think it was for the best, no matter how much I (or Susie) would have liked to have had the chance to repair things with him. This was not the occasion.

One thing I did find awkward for me, though, was how little his name came up; he was one of the few topics that was off the table while we were there. You know me, I like to ask the “dig-in” questions and get beyond small talk; I did get lots of that on other subjects, but with Matt, that was one out-of-bounds area.  I think there was a general sense of not knowing what could even be said safely.

Christmas Day was a lovely, languid affair, lasting from about 10:30 a.m. to the afternoon.  Presents were opened in calm procession, and oohed and aahed about carefully.  My two favorites were both the cheapest and the most expensive.

Cheap: A dinosaur in a volcano in a plastic container; fill it with water and watch it erupt for a very long time, exposing the Magmasaurus (tm) and then slowly growing it to three times its original size. It was the perfect gift for me, and I hadn’t even put it on my list. How did Debbie know? smile

Expensive: Many people who love me plotted together to buy me a wonderful new camera, the Nikon D7000, a spectacular piece of technology that does everything except wipe your nose. I have already taken a bunch of pictures with it, and I will post those on Flickr very soon! No, really!

All in all, the holiday.. oh wait! I forgot to mention Phil!  Yeah. He’s so quiet, and calm, amidst all the kerfuffle that is three dogs barking and two sisters talking and one mother calming urging me to wear wool socks when I go out. But he’s doing fine and was great to hang out with.

We ate out a few times, had Italian food and loved it, and Debbie’s friend Lauren came by and showed me a few tricks I didn’t know about my new camera.  And then, in a flash it was over, and we were packing up our stuff from the tiny guest room, and it was a long drive to BWI where, despite our early arrival after the brutal winter storm, we still faced horrendous lines and almost didn’t make it to the gate in time.

Next stop: Detroit.



 
 

 

Previous entry:
Stop One: Las Vegas

Next entry:
Stop Three: Detroit

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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