Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Nesting Moment

In early December I took my last business trip before maternity leave: strategic planning in Baltimore. Let me just say this about what I have learned about travelling when I'm pregnant - when I get home, I am hit with 2 to 3 days of what feels like the worst hangover on earth. Knowing that I would be coming home just in time for the weekend and wanting to spend positive family time with Gene and Edie, I wanted to try an experiment and allow myself one day of rest before jumping on the airplane and diving back into normal life. It just so happened that my niece, M, is living in D.C., and so I asked if she would mind if I crashed at her place for a day and night after my work obligations were complete. (Talk about role-reversal!) While I would have loved to finally have the opportunity to explore our nation's capital (I never have, amazingly enough) with the best possible tour guide, I let her know that my agenda involved a lot of sitting and possibly DVD-watching. As a grad student in the midst of finals before the holidays, she said that sounded just about her speed.

Her one brilliant suggestion: to take me to tea at the Willard Hotel. In her words, if you're not quite important enough to be invited to be an overnight guest at the White House, the Willard will be offered as your accomodation. I think that just about says it all.

The taxi ride to the Willard gave me just enough exposure to national monuments that I got to appreciate at least a little American pride. And arriving at this grand hotel, whose halls were completely decked with holiday cheer made my trip complete. We were seated at our little tea table in Peacock Alley, as it's called, and tea was served. Perfect little tea sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and jams, and a variety of desserts, including the yummiest little parfait I can remember having.

While normally I make notes about every detail of the food and tea, especially at a new venue, this tea was more about the company and conversation. The tea itself provided the perfect backdrop for me to spend quality and quantity time with a most beloved niece. I was fascinated to hear about her studies, her internship with a government office, her international travels, her boyfriend, and her future plans.

And the thought struck me as we talked: I first met M when she was exactly Edie's age. And here she is, an intelligent, beautiful and poised young woman ready to leave the nest. My sister-in-law has spent the past several years preparing her daughter for this exact moment. What an amazing accomplishment for them both. To know your child is ready to embark on their own life journey; and to be at that jumping off point as a young person to confidently take that step into your own independent world.

My own life journey has me right at the beginning of the preparation of the nest: learning to provide the structure and guidance to my own young daughter and obsessively cleaning and organizing in advance of the arrival of a new baby. I recognize the truth in understanding that time does fly. The days may be long, but the years are short, as author Gretchen Rubin so beautifully documented in her short (very short) film. And seeing the transformation of M from a cute, curly-haired pre-schooler to the person who sat across the tea table from me on this day drilled the point home.

I can't say that I remember what kind of tea I drank at the lovely Willard afternoon tea. I can't recall the types of delightful sandwiches they served. I do know that I enjoyed them thoroughly and would definitely go again. What I do remember, very vividly, is that I enjoyed a perfect afternoon with a wonderful companion. And, the icing on the tea cake? My little experiment worked! When I flew home the next morning, I arrived with only my usual daily amount of nausea. I think we were even able to go to the park as a family. Success!

My whole-hearted thanks to M for a restful, perfect "layover." I look forward to another DC adventure in the future - with a little more mobility next time! Until then, I will continue to feather this nest and hope that I am as successful with preparing my own little brood for flight as my own family and in-laws have been with theirs.

The Willard Hotel - Peacock Alley Tea
Served Friday - Sunday
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Reservations: (202) 637-7350