A Remarkable Day

Have you ever wished you could  bottle a day and hold it forever?  Perhaps when you are feeling down or dissatisfied, you could open the bottle and take a swig.

I don’t mean to get all Jim Croce on you.  But, yesterday was that day.

Like many of you, Running Girl and I try to spend time with our family during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  It’s a magical time of year.  Christmas preparations are done, the toys are opened, and hopefully returns are held to a minimum.

It’s time to play with the toys and spend time with those closest and dearest to you.

It is also a great time to get in the car and do family activities.

Rochester's high falls on the Genessee River. We learned how water power influenced the city's early industries.

Yesterday, all five members of Kay Nou got into the family vehicle to travel to Rochester, NY for a day of fun and learning.  RG and I informed the teens they were coming asked the teens if they would like to come.  To our delight, both Subway Dude and The Fashionista responded “yes” enthusiastically.

We made Subway Dude drive (against his will) the hour and a half or so to our destination.  This is not his favorite thing.  SD did a great job.

I sat in the co-pilot seat, playing with his Christmas toy — a Garmin Nuvi GPS device.  We marveled at its intelligence, and patience in dealing with stupid humans.  When we deliberately disobeyed Computer Cindy’s directives to “Turn Right Now,” the device immediately recomputed a new route.  Cindy then told us what to do next.  However, we thought we detected a note of irritation in her computed-generated vocal pattern.

The weather was good.  Or bad, if like us, you prefer snow in late December.  We made good time.

As we were coming into downtown Rochester, Computer Cindy started issuing commands in a fast and furious manner.  At that point, my cell phone went off.  It was an old friend.  I assumed that he was calling to see if he was available for lunch.  Unfortunately, the friend was calling to inform me of the death of another friend.

Terry Loretto was only 50.  He died suddenly the day after Christmas.  He was a good friend.  We both left jobs to start our own law practices at virtually the same time.  When I struggled with my internal conflict over whether to adopt a child from Haiti, I shared my burden with Terry, who listened patiently and offered his advice.

Terry had a big laugh and a great sense of humor.  I and many others will miss him forever.

Terry

The news of Terry’s passing tempered the mood of the day.  Nevertheless, it also served to enhance the fact that we were all together, and that life can be fleeting.  The Romans say Non c’è rosa senza spine (“There is no rose without thorns”).  The sorrow that the death of a friend brings also leavens the dough of life to produce a better and more fulfilling bread.

*****

Our first destination was the Susan B. Anthony house.  I had been there once before a few years earlier.  I really wanted to share the experience with my family.  In case you haven’t caught on yet, RG and I feel that our kids are really incredible people, and we want to do everything we can to provide them the formative life experiences that go into producing interesting adults.

The Anthony house is one of those locations ripe for knowledge-gathering.  RG remarked that she was struck by how many important causes came to meet at the crossroads of the 19th Century, embodied by Susan Brownell Anthony: universal suffrage; abolition of slavery; and temperance of alcohol due to the terrible effect of its consumption by working men upon their families.

Island Boy was fidgeting.  We have learned from experience that long car trips are not his forte.  But, before he and RG peeled off from the personal tour we received from a guide named Lynn, he learned about where Susan B. Anthony and her family ate dinner and how they heated their home.

Island Boy also made a key observation that had escaped the rest of us: Lynn bore a striking resemblance to Susan B. Anthony herself.  Lynn was overjoyed when she learned of this — apparently she impersonates the great lady for historical events.  She informed us that few visitors pick up on this resemblance.

After RG and IB left the tour, the teens and I had a good chat with Lynn.  Among other things, we discussed:

  • Life for women in the 19th century.  Today, musical accomplishment is a sort of a quaint skill for a young woman.  In Anthony’s day, it was an absolute necessity for a girl who hoped to find a good husband.
  • Ms. Anthony favored portraits of great Americans, such as Lincoln and Washington, with their families.  This demonstrated the often-overlooked fact that the wife and children were an important part of the man’s life.  Washington also had a black man-servant painted in the family portrait.  This was remarkable for the time.
  • Susan B. Anthony organized a group of women to register to vote in the presidential election of 1872.  She voted for Ulysses S. Grant because the Republican party of the day came closest to espousing the causes for which she had fought so hard.  Lynn then told us about Anthony’s arrest and subsequent trial before a kangaroo court.
  • Susan B. Anthony continued her important work right up to her death at the age of 86 in 1906.  Women did not receive the vote until 1920.  Anthony knew that this milestone would not be achieved during her lifetime.  Yet, she and her contemporaries kept fighting, in their words “for our daughters.”
  • She was a remarkable person.  I asked the kids to imagine what she could have accomplished had Susan B. Anthony lived in a time when women could vote, hold office or run big corporations.  Anthony could certainly have become U.S. President.
  • I hope my children now better appreciate the societal changes that they are seeing during their short lifetimes:  same-sex marriage; women candidates for president; an African American president; and the right of gays to serve openly in the U.S. Armed Forces.

*****

After leaving the Anthony house, we went for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, a family favorite.  We enjoyed being together at lunch.  Unfortunately, on this occasion the food wasn’t as good as we had hoped.

After lunch, we went to the National Museum of Play.  This institution was formerly known as The Strong Museum, and everyone still refers to it by that title.  This is an incredible place for everyone.  We have wonderful memories of bringing SD and TF there when they were much younger.  This was Island Boy’s first visit to the Strong.

Perhaps it’s best to tell about the visit in photos:

Cab driver, Island Boy, had a celebrity fare

Postmaster, IB, and his new friend, Will.

SD always gravitates toward the musical exhibits

IB selects fresh poultry with the assistance of a beautiful salesperson

Check out

The teens found plenty of plenty of amusing exhibits

The Strong Museum also captures the adult vote by including exhibits of interest such as the dynamics of football, and plenty of space devoted to vintage toys such as Slinky, Candy Land, and many of vintage toys from our youth.  I was delighted to come across:

My original Atari console

and:

My Commodore 64 computer keyboard

We met our friends at the Strong.  Chris  and I were students in Paris together 25 years ago.  He and his lovely family were great hosts at the museum, at their home and at a restaurant for dinner.  We had a great time time with them.

*****

During the drive home, Computer Cindy guided us every step of the way. I was struck by the fact that this day featured explorations of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.  The day also treated us to tremendous joy and to sorrow.

Cindy, our 21st century fox, even told us accurately what time we could expect to be home.  Somehow, Cindy was able to take into account our flaws as a family (stops for gas and restrooms), incompetence with directions, and setbacks for the loss of friends, and still guide us to a remarkable day.

— The Major

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Anna on December 30, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Rochester is a GREAT city, but then, I’m totally biased (having spent 20 years there, it’s the city I refer to as “home” even though I live in Rochester). I’m so glad you were able to spend such a wonderful day there!

    But you floored me with one piece of trivia. Even this Rochester native didn’t know that it’s no longer the “Strong National Museum of Play.” When did it drop the “Strong” from its title? I was there on a date in 2007, and Strong was still part of its title.

    Reply

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