Homesick

Posted on Tuesday 20 January 2009

I haven’t missed an inauguration in D.C. since I was…I don’t know, born maybe. In fact, I haven’t missed much in D.C. when Mall crowd numbers are counted.

I remember only that I was very young when my stepfather drove my siblings and me downtown and ferried us up to his hotel’s rooftop so that we could “witness history.” I didn’t understand what I was watching, except I was intrigued by the crowd that was so silent, by the people in the hotel who were crying. Later, I would learn–because I was told again and again–that I had seen President Kennedy’s funeral procession.

I remember being forbidden by my stepfather to attend any anti-war demonstrations, “Because you’re too damn young and there’s nothing but damn hippies there,” and so I didn’t. But I watched on the TV news, amazed by the sheer numbers of people.

I remember being on the Mall for the Bicentennial Fourth of July fireworks, how incredibly hot it was, and how when we walked the blocks and blocks to our car, I couldn’t see or feel the sidewalks from the streets from the grass and gardens because of the sea of people by whom I felt carried along above the ground.

I remember walking around downtown long after the conclusion of the Bush 41 inaugural parade, and suddenly coming upon the Indiana state float that was simply abandoned by the side of a curb. A giant, glittering gold star had fallen off its side and lay on the pavement. Mr. RG didn’t miss a step as he picked it up and we kept walking, now laughing about how we had come upon this strange memento. It hangs in his office to this day.

I remember welcoming home the released hostages from Iran as I stood on the sidewalk and watched their bus ride down Pennsylvania Avenue. I will never forget the relief and joy everyone felt as we waved and cheered. The yellow ribbons, it seemed, had really worked magic.

I remember the incredible security measures and how cold it was as my friend and I stood very close to the Capitol and listened to President Bush’s second inaugural speech. No one else wanted to bother to join us, politics aside. It was just too much to deal with, our friends and spouses told us.

I remember walking a few blocks after work to stand in sweltering heat to watch President Reagan’s funeral procession. I remember feeling shocked at how close I was able to get, how I felt like I could literally reach out and touch the stirrup of the riderless horse.

Today, I watched President Obama’s swearing in, listened to his speech, and heard the commentary as told to us by all the talking heads who were bundled up against the biting cold, from my toasty Keys restaurant. I pointed out everything to my coworkers. There’s St. John’s Church–the Church of Presidents–where I attended as kid. Wait, see the building next to it? My stepfather’s hotel was just a block down from there. See that reporter on the corner? One of the restaurants I worked for is right there! Blair House? Yeah, I walked by it everyday to and from work.

Which prompted one of my coworkers to ask, “Do you have any famous people stories from DC?” I had many, mostly uncanny brushes with the powerful of the past, a result of growing up in such an odd city with connected parents, and later raising kids in the same setting. I surprised even myself this morning as I told one account after another–a black apron tied tight around my hips, a pot of coffee at the ready, and feeling so many miles away from the place that had been my home forever.

No, I would not have wanted to brave the Metro on this day. No, I would have hated standing for hours in the frosty cold on this day. But yes, I would have done both. And yes, I felt homesick all day because I hadn’t. Couldn’t.

On a day that I ached to be in my hometown, my current hometown restaurant was quite suddenly sold. The owner who hired me is done–gone–as of three this afternoon. Will the new owners keep me–the newbie green gal who can barely juggle four tables at once? I have no idea.

On such an incredible day for our country, I felt simply and horribly homesick. And later, I simply felt sick. But, as I have to believe, it’s all going to be okay. It’s a day of new beginnings, right?

14 Comments for 'Homesick'

  1.  
    January 20, 2009 | 9:36 pm
     

    I remember watching the first Reagan inaugaral parade on TV. At one point, they cut to President Reagan in the Viewing Stand, and leaning over his shoulder commenting in his ear was my neighbor, John Gartland. I used to babysit his kids in Potomac. He was seated just behind the president, and would occasionally lean up and feed the President some information or advice. Amazing the people you meet, when you live around the nation’s capital.

  2.  
    Restaurant Gal
    January 20, 2009 | 9:43 pm
     

    cljahn–that is EXACTLY the kind of story I am talking about! I remember when RG Son was learning to drive with his learner’s permit. We were downtown, on a back street. It was cold and icy. “Be careful of cars coming down the hill,” I told him.”They won’t be able to stop.” Sure enough, a minivan comes cautiously down the hill, but clearly is having trouble on the icy street. “Pull over!” I command RG Son, who does. As the van passes us, I notice I kind of recognize the driver. “Oh, by the way…that was Ted Kennedy who you didn’t hit,” I tell my kid. Only in D.C.!

  3.  
    January 20, 2009 | 11:02 pm
     

    My Ted Kennedy story is from Palm Beach; I was at Bradley’s with some friends; we were getting ready to leave, when we realized we were missing Holly. We found her at the bar, being hit on by none other than Ted Kennedy! I argued that we should let them be; after all, he wouldn’t have to cross the bridge to take her anywhere, but the consensus went the other way, and we eventually hustled her out to the car.

    It turns out she hadn’t realized who he was; she thought he was just a random drunk lech. (Which, strangely, was exactly her type, but that’s another story).

  4.  
    L.
    January 21, 2009 | 1:34 am
     

    Hi RG,

    Yes, it’s a day of new beginnings, wishing the best for you.

  5.  
    January 21, 2009 | 3:42 am
     

    Four years ago today I was in Washington DC for President Bush’s second inauguration. It was 9 degrees when I stepped off the plane the preceding Sunday and it never got much warmer, but I never noticed he cold–I was with someone I cared about in a city that I love for an event that mattered to me.

    I also remember watching the Reagan funeral on TV, crying over the memories of a man that had meant so much to me, and then being shocked to stillness later in the day as I watched Baroness Thatcher being helped to the President’s crypt in California to pay her final respects by none other than–my estranged father.

    A magical city–one that remains so despite the human rot that clearly now infects its great and majestic halls.

  6.  
    January 21, 2009 | 6:01 am
     

    Well, I guess we understand last one home’s politics. RG, good as always to read your posts. I hope the new owner works out, but if it doesn’t, I think you will perservere.

  7.  
    Restaurant Gal
    January 21, 2009 | 7:26 am
     

    cijahn–ha!

    last one home–Your father? Wow. As for the rest, politics seemed to be put aside for one day. More importantly, I hope you find someone that special again.

    Real Estate Feast–I always do. But I felt very at home with the new owner and every one of my coworkers. I have no doubt all of that is about to change, likely today.

  8.  
    January 21, 2009 | 12:43 pm
     

    It was an emotional day for you wasn’t it? Hang in there and hope the new owners work out. As long as they are nice…..

  9.  
    January 21, 2009 | 12:52 pm
     

    Wow, more changes there after your move down – hope it all goes well.

  10.  
    Nriese
    January 21, 2009 | 1:35 pm
     

    RG – I am moving to your old beloved hometown and would like to chat with you about the area. I have so many questions regarding the area and this move that maybe you can answer. Any help would be greatly appreciated – if you have the time.

  11.  
    January 21, 2009 | 4:44 pm
     

    New beginnings are great things 🙂 I’m totally on board with that too!

  12.  
    Lex
    January 21, 2009 | 5:38 pm
     

    Yep! It’s all going to be OK.

    I ate at your old restaurant Monday night/Tuesday morning since it stayed open until 4am that day. It was my launching pad to the festivities. I thought of you – knew you would have been there if you were in town.

  13.  
    Restaurant Gal
    January 21, 2009 | 7:52 pm
     

    waiterextraordinaire–Yeah, not so sure about that. But we’ll see. Let’s just say my resume is back up to date.

    JoeinVegas–Unfortuunately, I am not wanting this change at all. But what can you do?

    Nriese–Good luck. Hope my email to you helped.

    kgrrrl–I am simply crossing my fingers.

    Lex–Thanks, I hope you are right. How cool you were at my old place. I bet is was totally packed all night and day!

  14.  
    Laura
    January 24, 2009 | 2:13 pm
     

    Well, I have to say, you didn’t miss much by watching it on TV – between the crowds, the cold, and the disgusting metro the tourists left behind for us, that is. I happily watched the inauguration 12 blocks away from the warmth and quiet of my home. Would have been nice to see it live, but I don’t think I would have been able to hear or see everything as well as I could on TV.

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