Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Real Christmas Story

Okay, so, we spent Christmas this year at my sister's house, because she was great with child and not up to driving six hours to our house, and certainly not up to an airplane ride to our parents' house. She is due on New Year's Day.

She and her husband have a four year old, very verbal boy, who proclaimed as soon as the disbelief faded that the new baby shall be called Soonyouwah. We do not know why. We do not know what it is. We only know that It Shall Be Called.

So, on Christmas Eve, we're all kind of vegging out in front of the tube, watching the Saints whup up mightily upon the Giants, when during the first quarter my sister goes to the bathroom, and I hear a rather sharp "MIKE!" eminating therefrom.

Shortly thereafter, I join Mike in the kitchen, just in time to hear him tell the OB/GYN's answering service that his "water's wife broke." I did hear it, with my own ears, yea verily.

My sister comes out of the bathroom, amazingly calm (but not so amazing, since she knows at this point she's just along for the ride, in control of very little). She points out where Santa has left some gifts, and where the batteries are that should go into them, and asks me to make a couple of phone calls. She asks me if I can handle the 4 year old, then she slaps her head and says "You took a ten year old to France; keeping a four year old in his own house should be a breeze!"

Her idea of breeze and mine are different, you might guess.

That was at about 2:30 Sunday afternoon, and about 10:20 she called and said it was a boy, and they had no idea what his name was yet. I suggested Jesus, since it was Christmas Eve, and Jesus H. Moskowitz sounded like someone I'd want to get to know.

But alas, they didn't take my suggestion, and if you want to know what they named him, peek here.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Close Encounters with Dead Presidents

I am cold.

I just spent the last hour standing down at the corner of our street, watching the motorcade(s) bearing the body of Gerald Ford drive by.

They flew into Andrews Air Force Base, and since the Fords had lived in Alexandria for eighteen years, until he was President, the family requested the motorcade come up through Alexandria rather than go up the freeway into the city to the Capitol.

Lots of my neighbors came. We took the dogs, as did many others.

There were about thirty motorcycles total, two hearses (in case one broke down), police from the District, Alexandria, Pentagon Police, the uniformed branch of the Secret Service, Capitol Police, countless Secret Service SUVs, probably fifty limosines and Town Car-ish black cars, the ceremonial ambulance bringing up the rear.

It is easy to become jaded about this stuff when you live here, because it is relatively common. But there have only been 43 men ever to do this, and only a few of them are alive at any time.

Just a bit of history.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas, Part Deux

This weekend, we had six parties.

On Friday night, my husband was invited to participate in the Aero Club of Washington's presentation of the Wright Brothers' Memorial Trophy to retired Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta.

The event was held in the Washington Hilton Where They Shot Reagan, or as known by others, the Hinckley Hilton. It was black tie, and I never know quite what to wear to such events. Besides, it's a week before Christmas, so do you dress like it's a Christmas party?

I pretty much hit the middle of the target range in the dress department. I wore a 15 year old black Dior-fabric silk jacket with a dark iridescent reddish-paisley velvet skirt and a black lace camisole, with silver pumps sporting rhinestone buckles.

Others there appeared to be being propelled out of their dresses, either from the top or from the bottom, squoze clean out. Still others went the easy route, with black velvet or gold satin pantsuits.

All the men wore tuxedos. Except Herb Kelleher, inventor of Southwest Airlines, who wore a business suit, and smoked. He allowed as how smoking was only a misdemeanor, and "hell, I have lots of those." He was a scream, but he always is. I didn't know that he and Norm were great buddies, but Deni Mineta said that the two of them together behaved like two six-year-olds.

We missed the dinner gathering to which we were invited earlier, and the party at the club H2O, which had been completely rented out by a business associate.

Saturday night was my office's staff party at the boss's house, which was lovely and low key, followed by a house party with some old neighbors in their new neighborhood, which lasted until about 1:30 am. VERY fun. Good conversation, getting all caught up on all sorts of gossip...

Sunday was a party in Maryland with some sailing pals. We carpooled over with some local friends, and met up with the others in their Aspen-lodge style house with a fire in the fireplace (despite the fact that it was in the 60's outside). Tons of great food and drink, good conversation.

I woke up with a cold this morning. Shook too many indiscriminate hands.

Soonyouwah's mother is showing signs of pre-eclamsia, so Soonyouwah may be coming Sooner than we thought...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas in Washington

It's really great.

Lots of free concerts and recitals, lights, parties, menus at restaurants. I've done two parties so far, and have another three next weekend. It's better than anywhere else I've done Christmas. Even better than Paris. Except in Paris Jessye Norman was singing at Notre Dame. I would have had tickets if she'd been here.

My discovery of Christmas in Paris was when we kept foreign students in Florida. We visited one of them for Christmas, and he lived in a small town just outside the Péripherique. On Christmas eve, we went to the local church's 5 pm family service, in which the children portrayed the Christmas story in lieu of homily. It was dreadful, as they all generally are, and as usual, the parents thought the performances were brilliant. They are entitled to their opinion.

During the Offertory, the kids came back and portrayed the story of the Good Samaritan. They were evidently running out of kids, because one of the robbers was also the innkeeper. He appeared to get everybody's money.

We then went home to a feast like I have never since or before seen the likes.

Escargot, Coquilles St. Jacques, foie gras, oysters on the halfshell. We ate until midnight then quit, long before we got to anything like salad or roast beef or cheese or dessert. We had those the next day.

Another Christmas in Florida, we had a student from Japan with us. One Saturday when she was out with her friends, we went out and got the biggest tree we could fit into our dining room, which had 13' cathedral ceilings. We decorated it and left the lights off in the dining room to emphasize the lights on the tree.

When she came home, we urged her to go see the Christmas Tree in the dining room. She said she would in a little while, and we forgot about it. In a few minutes we heard this distinctively Japanese "Ho-o-o-o-o-o-H!! coming from the dining room. Evidently in Japan, Christmas trees are about a foot tall and plastic. She'd never seen anything that big inside a house. Further, it took two or three days until she brushed against it for her to discover that it was a live tree! For the whole time we had it up, she would go into the darkened dining room, pull up a chair and just gaze upon the splendor of the tree.

We took her to midnight mass in the cathedral on Christmas eve, and arrived so late that we had to sit in the narthex. Here came the bishop and all the clergy in all their gold brocade, swinging the thurible full of incense, walking through the bunch of us in folding chairs, heading into the church. We heard another "Ho-o-o-o-o-o-h!" as she asked "And you do this every week??"

We told her we generally didn't sit in the lobby.

Still, when we see a particularly magnificent Christmas tree, one of us will emit a "Ho-o-o-o-o-o-h!"