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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Basic Biittner : A memorable end to the year (another travelogue)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I hope you all had a memorable 2011 and are off to a good start in 2012. Personally, my last half of December was full of both ups and downs. Starting with the bad news (which, thankfully, was far outdone by the good), on December 19th, I was leaving Cherokee in my new car, which I'd had all of 2 1/2 months, when a deer decided to walk into the car. So much for having a brand new car (only the second one I've had in my 45 years of driving).

Ava Grace Fraser rocks out on her new guitar - a Christmas present from her maternal grandparents.
I wasn't hurt (physically, anyway) and, after getting the car towed to the body shop, we left just a few days later for the first 'Whitney Family Christmas' we've had in many years. When one's mom and dad are no longer living and family members have move all over the country (or world), such occasions indeed become few and far between.

Some members of the Whitney family proudly display their Mac Andrew tartan scarves and ties.
My wife and I flew out of Omaha on Christmas Eve morning, headed for our daughter's home in Alexandria, Virginia ,for the second time in the last four months - funny how having a grandchild can suddenly increase the number of miles you willingly travel.

Now all he needs is a car!
Anyway, my daughter had prepared a sumptuous feast for all nine of us (including my brother and his wife, who live in Phoenix)that Christmas Eve, and after dinner, my 5 1/2 year-old granddaughter was allowed to open one of her presents before she went to bed. Guess which one she chose? That's right - the pink flowered guitar that her Grandma and I gave her. She actually asked for the instrument, and, with three guitar players on hand that night, it got properly tuned before her first attempt at playing it. when Ava opened the rest of her gifts on Christmas morning, she found that we had also given her a matching guitar strap, picks, and an instruction/song book. I hope she actually works on learning to play so she can join the "Family Band." If not - well, you can't say we didn't at least try. Needless to say, Miss Ava, who handed out the presents on Christmas Day, had more presents by far than the rest of us combined - as it should be. One of her other presents was a glockenspiel (xylophone), so she now has TWO instruments to play!

My brother, the family Genealogy guru, surprised us all with neckties for the guys and scarves for the gals, all in the family (McAndrew, my Great-Great-Grandmother) tartan. I also received CDs by two of my favorites, The Smothers Brothers and Steve Martin, and a new book about Howard Cosell from my son-in-law, who had drawn my name for the gift exchange. Oh yeah - and also a "New York Yankee" license plate frame. Now all I needed was a car to put in on!

The National Menorah stands behind Christmas trees representing each state in President's Park in Washington, D.C.
That evening, we all went into D.C. to see the National Christmas Tree, which is located on the Ellipse, near The White House. A large crowd was gathered there on the mild December evening to join together in a celebration of the season.

On Monday afternoon, the entire group went to Ford's Theatre (yes, THAT Ford's Theatre), where we browsed in the Lincoln Museum and Gift Shop before settling in for a wonderful performance of a musical version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" by the Ford's Theatre Company. My brother Doug and his wife Nancy left us after the play to visit with his son David and his daughter-in-law Jill, who live in nearby Rockville, Maryland. They had come to my daughter's home to visit earlier, and it was the first time we'd seen David in years and the first time any of us (other than Doug and Nancy) had met Jill. By the way, this Christmas also marked the first time that my son-in-law Joe had ever met Doug and Nancy - only 15 years after he joined the family

Dan Whitney stands with his granddaughter, Ava Fraser, on the steps of Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.
On a drizzly Tuesday afternoon, the rest of us took another trip into the city to tour the National Cathedral. Wow, what a building! Because it wasn't sunny that day, we weren't able to enjoy the full effect of the stained glass windows, but I'm not complaining.

The Cathedral does have a home congregation (Episcopal), which holds regular Sunday services, but it is perhaps more well known for holding several Presidential funerals, and the weddings of Al Gore's two daughters, among others. President Woodrow Wilson is one of the people who were actually buried in the Cathedral, and Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, are among others who share that distinction. Rev. Martin Luther King, though not buried in the National Cathedral, preached there often, and, in fact, preached his last Sunday sermon there in 1968, just days before his assassination.

We flew back to Omaha on Wednesday, but instead of actually coming home, we took a detour to my sister-in-law's home in Panora, because she had bought tickets for the four of us to attend a musical revue, UtopIA, at a small theater in Des Moines' Civic Center that evening. The four person show was a delight, with all the material poking good-natured fun at Iowa. Among the subjects covered in familiar tunes with new lyrics were the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry, RAGBRAI, Bob Vander Plaats, Steve King and summer jobs (bean walking and detasseling). A terrific show.

Still not ready to go home, we took in a couple of movies in Des Moines on Thursday ('New Year's Eve,' of course, and also the excellent 'The Descendants.' Don't be surprised if George Clooney takes home the Oscar for his performance in the latter).

We stayed one more night in Panora, which allowed us to see our two nieces and their one-year-old children Friday morning, then we headed back to our humble abode in time to see in the New Year.

The ""Space Window"" at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. salutes the Apollo Moon Landing, complete with an actual moon rock donated by astronaut Michael Collins.
Here is a view of the White House from President's Park on the Ellipse on December 25, 2011. President Obama and his family were in Hawaii at the time.
A large crowd gathered at the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. on December 25, 2011.
And that - to borrow the title of a 1960s TV show - was the week that was.

The box seats in Ford's Theatre where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 are not open to the public, but the area is respectfully marked.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner