Russ and I undertook our second road trip in as many months. For two people who say they’re too old to travel like this, we’ve certainly bucked the system this Summer. This time, I drove most of the way up, until we started getting closer to Northern Virginia and the greater Washington, DC, area. I just don’t drive well in city traffic. (Someone, please, remind me of that the next time I try to go through Knoxville on the last Friday in September at 4:30 p.m., when there’s a home football game in town the next day, will you, please?) The trip went well, though, and we arrived at my Cousin Melenia’s house early afternoon and got settled in. Her whole family was at school or at work – she’s the secretary at the school where her kids attend, Temple Baptist. Her daughter Ellie was claimed long ago by me as my own, since I knew I’d never have children, and is now fifteen years old. That number still floors me. Ellie plays on both the JV and varsity volleyball teams, while Jacob plays soccer. Their games were at the same location that afternoon, so, Melenia, the whirlwind mom that she is, whipped up to the house to pick up some things, Russ and I included, and we were on our way to Berryville for the games. We had missed the JV volleyball game and most of the soccer game, but watched a few minutes of it, as best as we could, then went inside to see the rest of the varsity match. They fought hard the first game, but were clearly outmatched by a larger, more dominant opposing team. No shame in playing your best game, though, regardless of the outcome. Jacob’s game ended much earlier, so he rode the team bus back to the school, where his dad picked him up so he could get started on homework. Ellie started hers in the minivan on the way home. Their dedication to everything they undertake blows me away. These kids do not sit idly for a moment! They’re always doing homework, playing sports, or practicing one of the numerous instruments they play. I know I wasn’t that way in high school. Certainly not in college. It makes me proud of how hard they’re working. I missed getting to run around the house playing with them like I did when they were younger, but being a teen has a lot more pressures; I do remember that much from those many years ago. 

The next night was the Duran Duran concert, so we didn’t see the family at all. We got a late start to DC, taking the Metro in from where Melenia lives, near the Ashburn stop (the end of the line). It was a long, but enjoyable ride. On the way there, we decided to try to take in the Lincoln Memorial while we were in the city. Word of advice for those of you playing along at home, and no doubt laughing at me as you read this: don’t plan something like this on the fly. We got off at a Metro stop near’ish the Washington Monument. Now, I’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial before – I was nearly arrested there in high school with my entire high school choir (in case you didn’t know, it’s illegal to sing there without a permit). But I watch Bones on TV almost every afternoon, and darn if they don’t make those two look a whole lot closer in proximity than they actually are! So, long story short, I got us lost, off track on time, and we walked the city for about seven miles that day that we didn’t anticipate walking when we planned the trip. On the bright side, Russ directed my attention to a writing shop on F Street called Fahrney’s, which held enchanting delights, and I ended up leaving with a Monteverde Invincia Deluxe fountain pen, the first I’ve ever owned in my life, because Russ wants me to have something “appropriately elegant” with which to sign books at future readings and signings. The man is simply too good to me for words. We joined up with some friends from the 80s Cruise, Andy and Peter, and several other Cruisers from the DC area at Cuba Libre Restaurant, near the music venue. We had a fun time, but skipped out after drinks, so I didn’t miss either opening act. Bastille was first up, then Chic, before Duran Duran hit the stage. (There’s a separate blog entry for the concert, so check it out, if you’d like.)

Our last afternoon, we went to Haymarket to visit my cousin Kedric and his family. His wife Melissa and daughter Charlotte entertained us until Kedric got home from work and KC and Jamie got home from school. It was wonderful catching up with all of them, but especially to finally meet Ms. Charlotte, who has an incomparable imagination and reminded me so much of myself at her age with her “pretend” games and playing restaurant and store. All of the kids loved the presents that we got for them, and we loved seeing them playing with all of them and having a grand time with Scentsy Buddies from the Muppets and Tigger. After that, we went back to Melenia’s and John’s for dinner, relaxed and chatted for a while, and then got packed up so we could get an early start home to make it back for my beloved drama professor’s funeral (see my poem “For Alan” in another blog post – the man was truly one of my heroes and a massive influence on my life at Emory & Henry). 

As is always the case with family who happen to be wonderful friends, too, the time in NoVA passed far too quickly. It was super-special to get to see all the kids doing the things they love best and to be included in all of those activities, even if briefly. Many thanks to everyone for fitting us into their busy lives like they did.