I spent last week in Washington, DC for an academic conference. But as luck would have it, I was able to catch up with several friends whilst I was there, too. This post is about that week, in a nutshell.
DC in a nutshell, Part I: Friends from the past
My first meet-up was with the McCormack Sisters. We lived across the road from each other until 1983 when they moved to Washington, DC with their parents. Growing up, I never thought I would see them again, despite our mums keeping in touch.
Because our mums did keep in touch, it meant that we were able to re-connect in our adult lives, thanks to Facebook. But even then, I didn’t really expect that we’d meet up again. But when I shared on Facebook that I was heading to DC, the girls reached out and we met up for dinner when I first arrived. We fell straight into a friendly conversation as if we’d spent our whole lives together. (You can thank Facebook for that!)
Later in the week, I had the opportunity to meet up with a friend from my time at WSU in Pullman, Washington. It seems that she was in DC with her husband who was also attending a conference. And so we made time to meet up to wander along the National Mall. It was a short visit, but it felt so wonderful to fall straight into conversation. My friend was very pleased to point out that we never once talked about our old workplace. Yes, that is a true sign that we’re friends, not former co-workers. (But I already knew that, as she was an absolute source of strength for me when my husband died.)
DC in a nutshell, Part II: Friends from the conference
In addition to meeting up with friends from the past, I had the pleasure of making new “friends” at the conference. I met several people over the week and had a variety of interesting conversations about our mutual research interests. And, in some cases, those conversations spilt into mutual “other” interests – from running and reading to travel and food.
And at one point, I had the pleasure of combining a chat about research with a quick cultural excursion. It seems that a conference friend and I both had a “free” session, so we used the time to take a taxi into DC to visit a temporary exhibit at the Renwick Gallery (and to get an obligatory “White House photo”).
The exhibit, Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death was a series of miniature “dollhouses” depicting real-life crime scenes. These tiny replicas were used for training homicide investigators in the past, but today they make for a great conference break for hobbyist detectives!
I hate to say that the museum visit was the highlight of the conference (it was a close second) but it was pretty fun combining a bit of personal intrigue with a discussion around my research interest. (And I will definitely reflect on those conversations as I work on my literature review in the coming months!)
DC in a nutshell, Part III: Friends from the Interweb
On Halloween, I had the privilege of meeting up with an online friend for the first time. We first met online about 10 years ago in a forum for dual US/UK couples. Even though I am no longer part of a UK/USA couple, I feel a sense of understanding and belonging to those who are. And I am so pleased that the relationships we’ve built online have turned into larger, whole-world (although based online) relationships.
I met her at her home where I enjoyed a nice meal with her family and a musician friend of theirs. It was actually quite comical when I realised exactly who he was. I had thought he was just a really nice guy with amazing stories. But, no. It was James McMurtry!! Paul and I used to listen to his music all the time and I absolutely adore him! (Not enough to know what he looks like though, clearly!) Thankfully, I didn’t realise who he was until he left. Otherwise, I would have gone all fangirl on him!
It was really great meeting up with my online friend though. I felt that we really knew each other and we were able to chat about other common “friends” (in positive terms) with the ease you would expect from friends whose bonds were forged “in real life”.
DC in a nutshell, Part IV: The Kid!
The absolute, hands-down, best thing about my trip to Washington, DC was seeing The Kid again after more than six years. In fact, I extended my stay in DC just to make it happen!
The Kid was my foster daughter. She lived with me for a year not long after my husband died and she helped me survive a difficult period in my grieving process. At the same time, I was able to help her to transition into her new life with family on the East Coast of America. When we said our goodbyes, I don’t know that I ever really thought we’d get the chance to meet again (although we stay connected online). But seeing her again really warmed my heart!
The Kid travelled to DC with her sister (they live 3 hours away) and stayed with me in my hotel room on the last evening. We then spent my last day in town walking and visiting. It was great to hear The Kid talk about how much she’s enjoying college (art, of course!). And it was great to hear about her plans for the future. (Including making applications for part-time work so that she can have some spending money.)
There is no way to fully explain how happy that short visit made me. But I will feel a warm glow in my soul for a long time coming. And hopefully, once I finish my PhD and have one of those job things (and therefore a bit of extra cash for holidays!) we will be able to meet up again for a longer adventure.
And that, my dear readers, was my DC trip, in a nutshell.
(But seriously, it was mostly conference stuff. Which was fascinating, but not the kind of stuff I want to write about here on Just Frances. That’s what the PhD blog is for!)
Note: The photos are not necessarily in order of events.