Via Media

I’ve lived in or around D.C. a couple of times in my life:

First (and correct me if I’m wrong, Dad), when I was a year old or so, for a year. My dad was a Congressional Fellow in Jim Wright’s office. I don’t remember much about it. Okay, I don’t remember anything. I’ve been told it’s the year for which I’ve been paying, karmically-speaking ever since, with my own late nights and wakeful babies.

The second was 1967-8, when he worked in another government office, and I was in second grade. We lived in Arlington, and here’s what I remember: the hardwood floors of the apartment. A piano being rented so I could take lessons. The lessons were group lessons at school, on silent keyboards.  Seeing The Jungle Book, and I seem to remember that the movie theater looked like a plantation house with columns in front – of course that can’t be right. Can it? I remember waiting at the school bus stop, where an older girl was showing us her math book, which must have been algebra. It had problems with letters in the equations, and that struck me deeply, for I could not figure out how you could add and subtract letters.

I remember my First Communion.  I remember coming into the living room of the apartment and seeeing my Dad in front of the television, intense. I asked him what happened. "Some fool shot Martin Luther King," he said. I remember the National Folklife Festival and the pottery flour and sugar cannisters my mother bought than are in my own kitchen right now. I remember the National Gallery visits, and once, reaching out to touch one of the paintings, to have my hand, of course, quickly pushed aside. I remember eating lunch with my mother at either the Hecht’s or Woodward and Lothrop’s tea room and having, in my view, the most decadent, wonderful ham sandwich I’d ever eaten. For years, the memory of the sandwich stuck with me, but I never could figure out what had delighted me so until, as an adult, I had one like it, somewhere else – it must have been just grossly slathered with mayonnaise.

I’ve visited just twice since, I think, once back in 1979 or 80 with my friend Lucy – we visited a friend of hers, now a priest with the Diocese of Nashville, who was a student at CTU. Then in 1991, when I was pregnant with Katie and ill with pneumonia, I went, despite it all, with my friend Dorothy to the East Coast Religious Education Conference. We did a lot of wandering, had a great Italian meal somewhere, and it gave me one of the growing number of moments to suspect that this professional laity world was, like any other world, potentially nuts. During a Mass for which one of the texts was the whole Jeremiah – potter thing, the gimmick was that the whole time Mass was going on, there would be (can you just hear the breathless discussions of this?) a real potter who would be shaping pottery and her activity would be simultaneously projected on a big screen behind the altar!!!!!!!!!!!

This is what Dorothy said: "Didn’t these people see Ghost? Is this really the association they want to make?"

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