October 12, 2004

The weekend report

We drove to D.C., about 250 miles, with two kids under the age of four, one nanny, and six cd's. It took about 5 hours. The kids were great, no complaints and no naps.

Friday was uneventful and passed quickly, other than my discussion with the bartender, as set forth in the post before this one.

However, one amusing thing did happen. I fell into conversation with a fellow wearing a Norwegian flag on his shirt. I held a real, grown up conversation in Norwegian with someone not related to me. That was very cool. He even asked if I was Norwegian, but maybe he was just being kind. In the, “it’s a small world” category, we had mutual acquaintances. Odd.

The rest is below, in the extended entry:


All four of us were in one room at the Hilton. The Boy Child and the Girl Child awakened us on Saturday morning with a sort of pillow fight. He would throw all his blankets out of his crib and she would throw them back in. They would both laugh delightedly. It was a charming way to wake up.

After breakfast, we marched them, along with my father, down to the Museum of Natural History, where we saw the Hope Diamond, the Stabiano exhibit, some dinosaur fossils (where my daughter kept telling my father he didn’t have to be scared because all of the dinosaurs were gone), and the insect collection. My brave little daughter icked us all out by holding several different large and yucky looking bugs.

We then walked out onto the Mall where they were having the National Book Festival. It was huge and they were giving away all sorts of free stuff– books, cd’s, slinky’s, puzzles and other fun kid things. Happily, since it was getting hot, they also had free bottles of water which we gratefully accepted.

After lunch back at the hotel, my father and the kids all went off to take naps and my wife and I hit the trail once more. This time we took a taxi, however. We went to the Freer Gallery to see Whistler’s Peacock Room, which was an exceptional experience. I had studied this room in art history some 15 years ago and was very excited to see it. Here is a a picture of part of the room:


If you go here, you can read about the room and see some other pictures.

Then we walked further down and paid a visit to the Air and Space Museum. We checked out the WWI and WWII era fighter planes on display (my choice) and then went to see the space exhibits - landers, rockets, capsules and so on (my wife’s choice). It was all exceptionally cool. I still marvel at the courage demonstrated by the men who stepped into these fragile little machines and launched themselves into the sky.

We then all trooped off to have a glass of Champagne and some cake to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th birthday. The Boy Child, who did not nap at all, was challenging. Eventually, we took him back and handed him off to the nanny so he could go to sleep early. The Girl Child came up to the wedding rehearsal, which she enjoyed. After it was over, she took her little cousin’s hand and declared that they were going to play “practicing getting married”. The Girl Child would be the boy and her little cousin, the girl. They mostly just walked around a lot holding hands. Good enough.

Eventually, after a rather long wait, we all went off the rehearsal dinner which was held in the basement function room of a local restaurant. It was crowded, buffet style with almost no seats, loud, and just plain too much. In other words, we escaped. We took the Girl Child and ran to a nearby restaurant where we had dinner and kept the Girl Child out waaaay past her bedtime. It was really nice to just have one child for a little while, especially one as mature as the Girl Child. That was probably the best part of the dinner. I had to send my wine back because they gave me a glass with lipstick smears all over it. I explained to the Girl Child that I didn’t feel like kissing a stranger. The second glass was just as dirty. At that point I gave up on the wine entirely.


We spent the morning packing up. You know the drill, finding all the things that the kids stashed under the beds and hid behind the couch. We checked out and I packed the car before I put on my nice suit and tie. I hate doing physical labor of any kind when I am wearing expensive clothes.

I walked over to the Hay Adams at 11:30, to be there early because I was asked to sign the ketubah as a witness. A ketubah is actually kind of interesting. It is a wedding contract, written in Aramaic, and it sets forth the rights and obligations of each of the parties to the contract. Most of them are quite beautiful and they are often framed and hung in the new couple’s house. You can see some examples of them here, if you like. I was honored to be asked.

At the signing, the rabbi did something I thought was very cool. He told the bride and groom to look into each other’s eyes and remember that moment when they had decided that this person was the one for them. Reflect on that moment, he told them, keep it close to you and treasure it. When things get difficult, as they sometimes do, remember back to that moment when you picked this person and know that you made the right decision. I liked that and I think everyone in the room liked it. As we filed out, the rabbi told me I was responsible for getting the ketubah after the ceremony and delivering it to the bridal suite.

The ceremony was nice. We were seated across the aisle from Sam Donaldson. There were other media celebs there, too – George Stephanapolous and Cokie Roberts, for example.

After the ceremony, I slipped out with the ketubah and took it upstairs. To my surprise, the bride and groom and the bride’s sister were in the room. I took that opportunity to give them my toast, the one I should have given at the rehearsal dinner and I made the bride and her sister cry. Here’s what I said (and no, it wasn’t anything about the triumph of hope over experience):

Back in 1986, I went to lunch with our grandfather. It was near or on the anniversary of the death of our grandmother. I asked him if he still missed her and he said something I’ve never forgotten. He said that he’d had 37 years with her and if I wanted he could give me the number of months, weeks, days and hours and it was not enough time. As I stand here with you, my wish for you both is that you have found in each other the kind of love and devotion that our grandfather, and I, have been lucky enough to find.

And we had a little Champagne and away we went.

The reception was held on the roof of the hotel. This is easily the best view in Washington. Here’s a picture from the hotel website:


The food was great, the speeches were fun, and I ended up sitting next to a law school contemporary who has gone on to do great things at one of the regulatory agencies. It can be a very small world.

The kids were happy downstairs in the kiddy suite, although the Boy Child fell and scratched his face a bit. He has the complexion that shows every little mark. The neurosurgeon we were chatting with told me not to worry about it, but what does he know?

We slipped away at 3:30 and managed to get on the road at 4:30. It then took 6 hours to get home. I drank coffee almost the entire way home, which meant that I got no sleep last night. I also picked up a cold or something down there so I was pretty rough yesterday and not feeling so great today.

Still, all in all, it was a darn nice weekend.

Posted by Random Penseur at October 12, 2004 10:51 AM

That sounds like a fabulous wonder-packed weekend! And that was a lovely toast, to be sure!!!

Hope you're feeling better!

Posted by: Mick at October 12, 2004 02:58 PM

I work within walking distance of the Hay Adams RP. Next time look me up! Sorry I missed the book festival. Had to spend the weekend in Connecticut. We probably passed each other somehwere on 95 on Sunday.
Glad you had a nice trip and participated in what sounds like a beautiful wedding.

Posted by: ivan at October 12, 2004 04:35 PM

Oh all right. The whole triumph thing just sounds trite after what your darling grandfather said.

And you made me cry. Damnit.

Well done, sir. Very well done.

Posted by: Margi at October 13, 2004 11:23 PM
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