Sunday, June 21, 2009

Best laid plans

So, how was the trip do you ask? Well, since I was supposed to be in Washington until Monday afternoon and am posting from home you can surmise that things did not go as planned.

After leaving Baltimore Saturday morning and travelling to DC I had discussed with my wife stopping for the only "DAD" stop on this trip. Moms and Dads will be familiar with this idea. Out of an entire trip you pick one brief stop you would like to make to satisfy a particular personal need and after making it as brief as possible so as not to interrupt the flow of family events you forge ahead to all of your other planned stops. Such was the case as we entered Washington and headed directly to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Located on the campus of the Catholic University of America, where my beloved Sister obtained her undergraduate degree it is probably the most beautiful Cathedrals this side of Rome. Dutifully following our GPS we cruised in to DC under cloudy skies and finally reached the parking lot next to the Basilica which was packed. Luckily we were allowed to make a space where none had existed before by a most generous fellow running the parking lot whereupon my wife collected our Daughter and I retrieved my camera bag. As I gleefully rubbed my finger tips together in anticipation of removing the treasured Nikon from its safe confines (much in the same way I imaging Bill Clinton anticipating the first bite of an Egg McMuffin) the skies opened and began to dump floods of biblical proportion on us. Not your usual driving rain mind you but rather Noah get your lazy ass off the couch and finish the Ark rain. As I opened my mouth to shout to my wife to alert her to the evolving maelstrom the sound of my frustrated voice was drowned out by thunder seconds after a sizable "oh now you've made me angry" lightning bolt zipped from the heavens. So off we trotted the five hundred yards or so to the safety of the lower level of the Church.

As we entered it was hard not to notice that about all but ten or so of the Catholics in Vietnam had picked today to make their pilgrimage. In celebration of the feast of Our Lady of La Vang the Vietnamese community were preparing for a Mass in the Crypt Church complete with orchestra, choir and more Knights of Columbus than I have ever seen in one place. Not to be deterred from our own aims of some quiet prayer and poor amateur photography I explained to my wife that we would simply see the chapels in the lower church, skip the Crypt Church until later or another visit and proceed up to the main floor to drink in the site of some fantastic iconography and mosaics. Knowing how badly I have wanted to make this stop she eagerly assented to my plan and all was well as we ascended the steps that would bring us to the entrance at the polar opposite of the Main Altar. That's when like three raccoons caught in the beam of a bright light rummaging through a suburban garbage can that we realized that we had walked in to the Ordination Mass of 9 Priests for the Archdiocese of Washington. Not to be deterred I decided to camp out in the back, attempt to remain unobtrusive, groove on the pipe organ music and enjoy what remained of the Ordination having only seen two in my life. I quietly pointed out to my wife the distant red splotch that I assured her was Theodore Cardinal McCarrick attending the Mass in choir. The Cardinal was the first Bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen when it was erected by Pope John Paul II. Missteps aside I was happy to find myself at the terminal end of the main aisle of the Cathedral. I was sure that despite most of my photographic hopes having been dashed that I would have a golden opportunity to get great pictures of the procession of the Cardinal, Archbishop Wuerl and the several hundred priests as they left the church. Imaging when my surprise when at the last possible minute the hooked a left and went up a side aisle to make a hasty retreat to the sacristy. By now completely crestfallen we took our leave of the Basilica and headed to the hotel.

The balance of the day was spent at the National Archives and the Museum of American History. If you have even the slightest interest in American History these are two must see spots in the DC area. While there are countless sites of equal magnitude where else are you going to see originals of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta?

Day two was supposed to be the major monuments and a trek to Arlington National Cemetery. Supposed to be.

We had planned to get up early and get to Mass at Saint Patrick's Church just about four blocks from our hotel. My wife is really good about making sure we all get to mass on Sunday and I thought it would be neat to go to the oldest Parish in DC. Well it would have been.

Short of getting a call from home that your teenager has accidentally set one of the cats on fire nothing will cut a trip short faster than an eight year old with a 102 fever. Thus, the end to our visit to the Capitol.

Not the Father's Day that I had planned for sure but then when is life really a Hallmark moment. After all it is really kind of a bogus holiday after all. And frankly a badly matched tie or bauble that will find its way into a forgotten drawer faster than Congress will find a new way to reach in to your pocket isn't at all what being a Dad is all about. Not that I am any kind of expert but for me at least it was about the peaceful look on my little girl's face when we told her we were going home early and her acceptance of gentle assurances that we would return soon when circumstances permit. It is about the two hours we promoted my little girl to the front seat and demoted the Mrs. to the back as we wound through the Maryland countryside just kidding each other and giggling like two idiots. And in a different kind of way it was about tipping off my oldest that we would be coming home a day early so he could clean up the house and not be in the deepest of trouble when we got home (though at some point we will be discussing why my metal "extra company is coming" folding chairs were left out in the rain).

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