Paul Cousin Reunion, August 1998
Friday, Aug 21, 1998
Thursday morning I had called Aunt Nell to let her know when Trina and I would be arriving. When I told her we'd rent a car and meet the family at the hotel, she said, "Oh, no! You don't need a car. We'll pick you up." Even when I explained we wanted to see the Smithsonian on Sunday, she said, "Don't worry, I'll tell you just how to get around, you won't need a car." So we agreed to meet at Trina's gate on Friday since my flight was just 20 minutes earlier.
The flight into Washington National Airport was uneventful, and I headed straight to a flight monitor to find out Trina's gate. Her flight wasn't even listed, and the gate attendant said American didn't have any flights from Houston that day! I wondered where I had sent them. Once I got hold of the travel agent that had planned the flights, I found they missed one detail when they quoted the flight numbers to me: they had put Trina on Continental.
With that cleared up, I found Nell and Trina at her gate, and got a flavor of DC in August hauling my bags between terminals. Even though I didn't have to go outside, I was pouring sweat when I found them. But Nell looked great and so did Trina. When we got ouside, Mel pulled up within a few minutes (he looked great too!) so we started off on our reunion weekend.
Nell and Mel said the cousins had gotten in Thursday and were out tromping around the Smithsonian, so they dropped us off at the castle with instructions on how to catch the Metro back to the hotel, and offered to drop our bags at the hotel for us. Trina had never been to DC, and we only had a few hours, so we headed to the American History Museum, saw the first lady's gowns, Fonz's jacket, Archie Bunker's chair and Dorothy's ruby slippers and found a bicycle exhibit in the History of Transportation section.
Neither of us had gotten much to eat on our plane flights so we grabbed some ice cream and headed to the Hirschhorn looking for the sculpture garden. We got turned around and walked through the gorgeous gardens behind the Castle, then toured the sculpture garden before catching the Metro back to the hotel.
At 6:30, we went to the lobby to meet the others for dinner. Not knowing who would be there, and not having met Jane Hunt who had set up the reunion, I was glad when Trina said "Cousin Jane from Maine?" and sure enough, it was Jane and her brother Jack Stangle, from San Diego, offspring of Evelyn and Bill. Not long after, Pete (Les and Betty Sr's line) and Betty Jr. Paul and David (Art and Nora's line) and Susan Paul joined us in the lobby.
Nell and Mel took us to Orlean's for dinner and we had some fantastic salmon and prime rib, and met up with Roger, Nell and Mel's son. Nell couldn't finish her salmon and when she asked the waiter for a doggy bag, Jane said "I didn't know you had a dog." Nell said, "Well, you know, I'm a Kerr!" When the waiter brought it back with the aluminum foil bent into the shape of a swan, Nell was really delighted. She told some great jokes too: "Have you heard that 85% of women in the Capitol Hill area said they wouldn't have sex with President Clinton... again!"
After dinner, we returned to Nell & Mel's for dessert (Nell said she worked all day on the carrot cake, along with the salmon and prime rib we had eaten at the restaurant, although Roger handled the ice cream department). We ate the dessert off a set of dishes Nell had been handed down from ?? her aunt??. We passed around pictures and gabbed awhile, and then Jane built up a family tree on poster board afixing photos of everyone's families with rubbery glue. Then David played a video tape he had found that Uncle Art had made on a trip out to California in the early 40's. David was only about 3 years old in it, and besides Art and Nora, mom figured prominently! I had never seen video of her at all, much less so young. It was a wonderful surprise. David promised to send copies since I know mom would love to see it.
We had representatives from all of Clarence and Bessie Leach Paul's children except Owen, but Mary Annabelle, his daughter, sent photos and a letter written by Owen during the war. Jack promised to copy it and send it to each of us.
It was hard to tear ourselves away, it was such a comfortable group of folks, and the photos and stories were funny and intriguing. I wish I had Mel on video, telling his story of the Japanese law firm he considered joining in Hawaii. He would have made it "Tomiki, Yagamachi, Nakamura, Nikushimi, ... and Kerr."
Eventually, around midnight, we realized we better call it a night.
Saturday, August 22, 1998
This was the day of the big tour: Aunt Nell had rented a tour bus and promised to take us all around DC with her professional guidance. She had requested a 39 person bus, but only 13 relatives were coming, so she invited her neighbors, doctors, friends, church members, and then found out they actually brought a 59 person bus! She went into the Comfort Inn and invited every one having breakfast! We got 41 people and were on our way by 9:00.
It was a hoot! Aunt Nell is a consummate guide, talking us through the history, the humor and the characters that made DC as we wound through the streets among the monuments. She peppered her normal talk with some stories just for us since we were "family" even though her microphone amplified voice easily reached everyone on the bus. She directed the bus driver to the best routes, and carried a Monet umbrella that matched her outfit so we could easily find her when we stopped to tour the sights up close. We saw the Roosevelt memorial, Jefferson (from the back), Lincoln (the vented ceiling), the Korean War Memorial (Marines had their neck straps fastened) and the Vietnam memorial. Susan found the name of an old boyfriend and was able to get an etching. All of this was before lunch!
We had lunch at a food court in the new International Trade Center,and relaxed for a little bit. Even being from Texas, the heat and humidity were uncomfortable, but the bus was cool so we piled back in after lunch. Nell took us across the bridge, past the three sisters, through Georgetown. Then we went out to the Iwo Jima memorial (Mel would kill her if she didn't do the Marine one) past Arlington Cemetary and back to the park across the street from the White House. At this point, we had to say goodbye to our bus driver since his day was done at 2:30, but Nell had lots more for us to see. We went though heightened security to get into the Library of Congress, and saw George Washington on a marble pillar. We got in line for the Capitol but it was out in the sun and looked to be at least a half hour long. Some of our crew took their leave and headed toward the Metro. So, Nell took a poll and we decided to go to the Postal Museum instead. Nell, Jane, Betty, Trina and I stopped at Union Station on our way there and got some beverages to pick up our gumption. Somehow the guys seemed to have disappeared. We found Susan in the Postal Museum and heard the guys had gone to a bar. So we checked out the stamps, posters (Wanted: Orphans) and stuffed dog mascot (looked real!) then went back to Union Station to join the others for dinner. We had a little time to shop before dinner so we picked up an umbrella with a pattern that had room for us to sign as a thank you for Aunt Nell. She was really remarkable leading us all around with only a slight limp showing late in the day; she used her umbrella as a cane at that point. It turns out she goes in for hip replacement surgery September 8th!
Kendra, Nell and Mel's daughter, joined us for dinner at America on the second floor of Union Station. We had a nice relaxing meal and lots of talk. We discovered Jack had to be taken off the payroll at the company he was consulting for since they had this rule that their employees sometimes put in a few hours. Seems his golf game has taken some priority since he left SAIC (Bellcore). David and Susan's youngest is 26 now. Jane took counts of kids and tried to come up with a great grandchild total from Clarence and Bessie Paul. Jack tried to gather up e-mail addresses, so we are guaranteed to hear more from him. His interactions with Uncle Mel were great since Jack is so conservative and Mel is so liberal. Jack spent a lot of the weekend looking for a t-shirt with stains on it to commemorate Clinton's big scandal, and Mel refused to call the airport "Ronald Reagan Washington National". It was entertaining to hear the two tease each other.
At 8:30, we got in line at the Washington Monument to see the city at night. Again, the security due to the embassy bombings last week caused the line to run a little slow. Also, they had erected a tent on the monument lawn and the lines queued there rather than wrapping around the base of the monument as is usually done. Even late in the evening, it was warm in the tent, but the chance to sit and talk with Nell for a while and the view from top was worth it. Nell's memories of the one room school and high school in Francisville were pretty much like mom's, and she told me she had always envied mom for her brains. I know mom will enjoy hearing that since she always envied Nell for her looks and outgoing personality.
After a short taxi ride in a station wagon and a Metro ride back to the hotel neighborhood, Jane and David agreed to grab another cab and go back to the hotel for their rental car to take Nell home. Mel had passed on the tour but had offered to pick her up at the Metro station but it was 11pm so the rental car ride was nice.
What a day! We were all so tired but had to call it a day since we were meeting again in the morning.
Sunday, August 23, 1998
Pete and Betty took us ("the girls") to Rockspring United Church, while David and Susan went with Jane and Jack. It was a nice service and afterward, Nell and Mel took us downstairs to the library. We saw the memorial book to Kelvin and Valerie, Nell & Mell's son and daughter who had each mysteriously died within a year of each other in their early forties of undetected heart conditions. We went back outside and found the area in the church lawn where they had been buried, and laid some flowers on their graves.
Jack and Jane headed back to Maine after the service, and the rest of us went to the Comfort Inn for brunch. Nell & Mel met up with us to hear everyone's plans and Nell decided to join the others on a tour of cathedrals while Mel dropped Trina & I off at the Smithsonian, then went back to join the others. We went to the Air and Space Museum ("To Fly" was good) but the place was packed so we left the Mall area and went to the Portrait Gallery 3 blocks north. It was interesting, with portraits of the presidents and a caricature gallery that drew us in so we were almost late meeting Nell & Mel to pick us up. Turns out, they recognized our behinds as we walked back to the Castle and picked us up on the way. They dropped us off at "the airport" with plenty of time to spare so Trina got a beer and I got a glass of wine and we had one last chance to shoot the bull before we boarded our planes home.
It was a great weekend, a fantastic chance to catch up on some people who are really neat despite being relatives, and I'm glad we were able to attend. The next one is a year from October in Maine and I'm looking forward to it already.