An unlikely tour guide

It’s travel season again, which means that I’ve gotten to see the inside of a hotel room outside of Boston, my childhood home for the last time, my siblings again–but hopefully not for the last time, and my niece, who’s visiting us now.

It’s all been good–OK, the trip to Boston for training wasn’t that exciting, but a little job security goes a long way these days–but travel is both tiring and distracting, which means that I haven’t had the energy or time to write much about it.
That doesn’t mean that we haven’t been busy, however. On Saturday we went to the National Cathedral where we thought we might take a tour, but were rebuffed by a tour guide who told us a concert was starting soon and that we had three minutes to look around and then had to leave.
“I looked on the website for the hours for today and didn’t see any mention of the concert, so it’s a bit disappointing.”
“Well, sir, it’s on the website. Touring conflicts are always listed on the site.”
“I looked on the page that listed the hours for today.”
“Sir, I know it’s on the site. It’s there somewhere.”
Wow. With customer service skills like that, she’s lucky to work at the National Cathedral, where visitors have no choice but to suffer along with her. If she worked for any business that had competition, she’d certainly drive them to it.
The last time Mama and I had been to the Cathedral was with Mom, when she came through DC after Mama and I returned from our honeymoon. The three of us spent all day there and had a wonderful time on the tour, going up the tower and wandering throughout the grounds. My memories of that visit are some of my most treasured recent ones of Mom, and that was why I suggested a visit there to my niece, who had flown across the country to be there.
As we suggested points of interest before she arrived my niece jumped on the possibility of going to the Cathedral. So, we’ll probably go again someday, but I’ll always have a bitter taste in my mouth about the place, simply because of one tour guide who couldn’t find it in her heart to say, “I’m sorry you won’t have more time today, but the Cathedral hours tomorrow are…”
Despite that guide, we did have a wonderful time outside looking at gargoyles and wandering, running, jumping and standing perilously close to the edge in the Bishop’s Garden, where we even found a carving of thistles to tell Eeyore about when we got home. You can see it all happen.
The kids both love their cousin, even Jewel, who’s skeptical of strangers–hell, Jewel is skeptical of me sometimes, but that’s probably because she knows me so well. They spent much of our time in the garden playing with her or, in Jewel’s case, chasing after her as fast as Jewel’s little legs could go.
At the end, we found a French boy named Antoine, who was about Jewel’s age. His mother speaks Ethiopian, Arabic, French and English, but apologized that her English wasn’t that good. Yes, it was accented, but perfectly fluent and understandable. She asked about my older girl and I explained that despite the long hair and the pink shirt, 3B is a boy.
She apologized profusely and said that she had to endure the same questions because of her son’s long hair, which was this beautiful curly cloud swaying around his face. And we chatted about what words Antoine and Jewel were learning to say and how shy they could be and so forth until it was time for us to go.
Walking away, I thought about that mother and all of the human potential that she embodied, particularly the ability to communicate across so much of the world. I thought of her son who had that as his inheritance. I thought of what I could do to bring similar gifts to my children.
And I thought that this trip to the Cathedral was a good one too.


Papa Bradstein will again be traveling–200 miles in 2 days on his bike–to fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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  • I am glad to hear something about my daughter's vacation. She sent me a couple of pictures today from the Mall. I guess you are both too busy to write.