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Back in the US of A
Maryland and Virginia
*** UNDER CONSTRUCTION ***
December 4 - 20
written December 5 and later, bit by bit
Dear Friends and Families,
No longer Euro-Americans, Marianne and I are starting our new chapter - or maybe book. Part of this start is a shift to more visits to friends and family and less to new places and buildings. We started with friends Nancy and Steve in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington DC. Steve met us at the airport Wednesday evening and brought us home, where everyone got busy catching up on latest activities. "Catching up" would be a theme for the next several days.
On Thursday we picked up our rental car, but only drove back to Nancy and Steve's. Later, Nancy dropped Steve off at the Metro to go to a business meeting, while the three of us continued down to Alexandria's "Torpedo Factory", one of our favorite art spaces. Marianne is hoping to find just such a facility in Fresno, albeit smaller for sure.
Back home, dinner was out on the deck. The calendar said early December, but the weather was warm enough to pretend it was mid-Fall. We had heard there was a cold front coming our way, so we made the most of the unseasonably warm evening.
This had been a good start on the "visit friends" theme, and on Friday evening we doubled the crowd. Chin and Peter had invited Marianne, me, Nancy, and Steve, as well as Mary and John, all good friends from our Kiev days, for an evening of story-telling and a great meal.
Good conversation requires a degree of common life-experiences and that is often problematic for former ex-pats. People without this commonality generally glaze over when one talks more than a few minutes about "over there". In our group of eight, we could easily blend over-there stories with everyone's latest events and activities, with each contributing interesting bits and pieces about foreign lands or kids and grandkids or senior ailments. Yeah, the last is "common life experience" as well, but need not be the focus when there are other topics on the agenda.
On Saturday, we headed off to visit Geoff and Suzanne and Ryan and Sean. Marianne and little Sean met for the first time and seemed to get along just fine. The day was spent just hanging around, with a couple of meals thrown in, a nice way to reconnect with Oma and Opa.
The Sunday forecast was for ice, snow, sleet, and freezing rain, perfect weather for playing inside with grandkids, but their mom had cautioned us that we need to arrange some outside running around first. Spoken with the wisdom moms have. For Oma and Opa, it was all good!
Monday morning started out icy, but things were melting by the time we left at 9:30. The drive down to Solomons in southern Maryland was uneventful, even when we tried to go off the main highway to "see the sights". What we saw was a mix of large, new homes typical of the greater DC area and nearby, rougher, establishments. Interesting.
In Solomons, the only open attraction we found was the Maritime Museum. We were almost the only customers. Interesting enough.
Tuesday morning started with another ice and snow forecast. We headed out nonetheless, guided by our TomTom navigator on a southerly route that, in the end, avoided the icy stuff, although there was plenty of gray rain.
By the time we got to Lynchburg the sun was coming out! We checked into the Craddock Terry, a very nice hotel built in an old shoe factory. Reportedly, the Craddock Terry Shoe Company was the largest shoe producer in the world, in its day, but the downtown factory was abandoned decades ago, like much of urban Lynchburg. Now, the downtown is gradually, very gradually, regaining some life, including the historic hotel.
Wednesday started with a bit of Christmas shopping and ended with dinner with friends. Sandra and Bob had originally volunteered to house us, but thought better as the completion of their new house dragged out. (Surprise, surprise.) I swear they left things in boxes and unfinished just to make us feel at home. In any event, they promised to come by California for a visit, once WE get settled.
On Friday the 13th, we returned to the Trotters up in Maryland, and settled in for a family weekend. Mostly it was hanging around home and playing with Ryan and Sean. Works for Oma and Opa. On Sunday we visited the Glenview Mansion in Rockville to get the Christmas spirit. There were crowds and kids and kitsch throughout the mansion and, despite the number of visitors, it was fun and positive and definitely a nudge toward feeling Ho Ho Ho.
Meanwhile, we have been monitoring our shipments from Germany. No word on the car, but the container of furniture is making it's way. Last report: off the French coast; next stop: New York, the day before Christmas Eve.
We had dinner out with Mary and Dan, Suzanne's parents, catching up on family developments. They, too, are retired and seem to be enjoying the extra time it provides, especially for babysitting duty for Sean and Ryan. They are the professionals at this task, but we enjoyed our one-day substitution.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had a couple of more visits with Maryland friends. A morning coffee with Sergey was interesting as he told stories of his latest travels. He may be the most-traveled of our friends, and it's always interesting hearing about his latest, in this case the Dominican Republic, other Central American countries, and a few African destinations. He had once sent us to Ukraine and another assignment is always lurking, but I'm not sure we have the adventure left in us. But, maybe...
We also checked in with Roman, another successful retiree and grandfather, and we compared notes. Maybe we will join his clan for a visit to their summer compound in Atlantic City MD? Never can tell. Later, we were invited by Alice and Chuck for dinner and more catching up. They had just gotten off the plane from Vienna but managed a nice dinner nonetheless. Impressive. They talked about potentially moving out to California, to be nearer kids and grandkids, so they went onto our list of potentials for a Fresno visit. Great.
And, speaking of kids and grandkids, we also had a Christmas present session with Geoff, Suzanne, Ryan and Sean. For sure, we are into the Christmas spirit now.
Saturday morning wakeup came early at 5:00, with a 5:45 taxi to Dulles airport. There, we went through the normal formalities in pretty good time, and were ordering breakfast out by the gate by 6:30. Take-off was 90 minutes later, and I am writing this five hours after that, above the Rockie Mountains. We can't wait to be home in Fresno!
Regards and do stay in touch.
John and Marianne
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