Passing of the torch and snail | News
They are tiny, need help with the simplest things, get a glass of water, insert a DVD, find a bandage, put it on. Then, while you weren’t watching, they grew, and not just in size, but in skill, in personality, and they know things that you don’t. They discover the historic waterhole, they point to destinations and read the SatNav like champions, deciphering which arrow to pay attention to now. They know important things like the location of the cafe, Trader Joe’s, the best restaurant for a late breakfast. In short, these babies that we pampered and watched over like hawk moms grow up and move to the big city, where they watch over us with indulgence.
Such was a week in January when my sister, niece, and I drove through snowy Kentucky and West Virginia to Washington, DC. We went to visit our newest little novice, Paxton. He’s been in DC for a year, living the dream he conjured up in high school, the one he charted in college, the first big goal accomplished in his life as a new adult.
We made the plan to visit him at Christmas. The best week would encompass his birthday, and we all talked at the same time, discussing logistics, could we do it? He was sitting there, getting excited too. I heard him say softly, “you can be my gift.”
So Kathy, Hannah and I were indeed her gift, keeping one eye on the weather and another on the growing mound of hats, gloves and scarves, water and snacks to keep us alive in the car. if the snowy roads of West Virginia or Maryland prove that’s too much.
I found an Airbnb in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where Paxton lives, a carriage house a block and a half from the Supreme Court and two blocks from the Capitol. On our first evening, Paxton picked us up, hopping on one of the hundreds of electric scooters dotted around the city. He thought we could go to the Dubliner, an Irish bar that I frequented with colleagues when I was regularly in Washington for work.
Nothing about this place was more familiar to me except the traditional live music performed by a live traditional Irishman. He seemed to make Hannah shine – she gathers admirers without trying – but he was unthreatening. Staying properly perched on his stool seemed like enough effort. To be honest, it was late when we arrived.
The next morning we walked around the Capitol and the mall. Capitol police were everywhere, especially in and around the Supreme Court, since it was in session. We walked half a block and saw a small blockade in the middle of the street. According to Paxton, one of the judges lives in this block. So maybe they go home for lunch, who knows? But so tall inside lean.
He was full of skinny insides, this nephew of mine. He gave us a real local tour, or as much as he could with a year under his belt. He picked great restaurants for us, I picked interesting starters for the table, like pâté and escargot. Now imagine this. There was more trepidation about the pâté than the prospect of throwing snails.
Once it was established, the pâté was just a more delicate and finer Braunschweiger, it was reputedly edible and then delicious.
Paxton and Hannah loved, you hear, loved the snail. I couldn’t imagine it. I love garlic butter snails, I love crusty French bread which is the perfect vehicle for that garlic butter, but I only tolerate the snail itself. We were cool sitting there in this fancy French restaurant, but not so cool that they didn’t want pictures of them trying snails for the first time.
Washington, DC takes COVID protocol seriously, with odd and limited hours for mall museums. You better have this mask properly fixed on your face too. But, again, it’s Washington. Majestic buildings and vistas, the seat of government, senator remarks, helicopters, you know, carry important people to important meetings.
And in the middle, Paxton. Fresh-faced and eager, taking the lead, this young man who was once the baby of the family, hung around everywhere. Now he is big, or almost, and claims the first of his claims in the city of his dreams.