Back when we were allowed to go places, we flew to our nation’s capital for my 9th Dad 2.0 Summit, where I was slated to listen, and my bride was slated to speak. We lucked into a corner suite upgrade at our host hotel, the Madarin Oriental, which meant every night before bed, I could tell Jefferson “goodnight” via one of our many windows overlooking his monument and the nearby Tidal Basin + Potomac.
After checking in, we walked to Old Ebbitt Grill for an amazing lunch of oysters, followed by a trip below the Hay-Adams Hotel to “Off the Record,” a subterranean bar with colorful coasters and artwork featuring political caricatures. Since it was the middle of the day, we were able to grab a seat at the bar and talk to the bartender and some of the locals until it was time for the first sanctioned event of the conference, to which it’s safe to say we “came in hot.” We may or may not have taken some coasters.
As always, I loved seeing old friends and making new ones during the “welcome party” and throughout the conference. The highlight of the programming for me was Saturday, when my bride gave her 45-minute talk.
I’ve known she is likely a good communicator, given her teaching school nearly a decade and her defending her Master’s thesis and presenting at conferences while working on her PhD in archeology, but I’d never seen it live. Sitting in a room full of people interested in her explanation of how she turned a love of sewing into a movement for which thousands of followers pay her for content–and then follow up with questions and interest afterward–gave me an emotion I’ve not felt before, but I’ll call it a “heartwarming sense of pride without any condescension.” Is there a word for that? It’s not like when your child (or someone whom you don’t expect to do well) does something well, and I had nothing to do with my bride’s ability to communicate well; I just know I enjoyed being a part of the audience she commanded, and if my heart has the ability to grow larger like the Grinch’s did right before he returned his sled full of presents to Whoville, it did right there in that conference room at the DC Mandarin.
The least pleasant portion of the conference happened during lunch one day, when a few of us who’ve served in the military (or have immediate family members who’ve served) were asked to eat in a room with the leader of responsibility.org (a conference sponsor) and talk about our military service (or our observation of a family member’s service) and, presumably, alcohol use, given the mission of the sponsoring organization, but it quickly went into discussing post-deployment aftermath, and since I was the only person in the room who’d actually served in combat (or who’s still serving, other than our host), my experience, which I was/am not really capable of discussing. My bride spoke a bit about what she observed in 2008, but I was single the first time I went in 2003 and have not talked or written about it with anyone, and just thinking about it made my hands shake and eyes water, and I really did not want to talk about how that felt when I did not understand what the purpose of such a conversation might be. My reaction was visible enough that others in the room asked me about it at dinner or days later via twitter, and I’m sure at some point, I should write about what that experience was like, but it was not going to be with an audience, over pot roast, at the Mandarin.
Once the conference concluded Saturday night, a huge group of us walked to Hill Country Barbecue and afterward, a few of us returned to Off the Record, where it was so crowded that we could not sit, until we saw a group get up from the large circular booth by the wall, right as a pair of ladies tried to sit there, too, so my bride asked if we could all sit together, since the bar would not allow only 2 people to sit at its biggest table, and before long, our group grew and grew to like 15 people, and we learned one of the local ladies was about to move to Dunwoody, just a few miles from where we live, and she and my bride became fast friends.
As participants in our conference peeled off, the two local ladies, Doug (co-founder of the conference and late joiner to our party), my bride, and I closed down Off the Record before cabbing to Jack Rose Dining Saloon, where the walls are lined with ladders to reach the shelves and shelves of whiskey, and I’ve wanted to go back there ever since visiting it seven years ago alone.
We ended the night with pizza and exchanged contact information with our new friends/future neighbors. The next morning, Doug met my bride and me for brunch at The Hamilton, and it was a delicious way to end our trip before heading to the airport to conclude what’s usually my favorite weekend of the year.
Dad 2.0 was a month and a lifetime ago. Since then, I’ve had to cancel a flight to New Orleans and face cancelling six more flights from April to July. My favorite law professor just lost his wife to COVID-19, and he’s tested positive as well. A friend lost her uncle, and a 44-year-old lawyer/blogger whom I’ve read for 20 years is intubated in an NYC ICU while fighting the disease.
My bride was slated to speak at Mom 2.0 in Los Angeles in May; it was to coincide with our youngest’s birthday, and we arranged for the children to join us toward the end of the conference, so that the five of us could go to Disneyland on her 10th birthday. Now, that conference is postponed until Fall, and Disneyland is closed, so I’ll have to postpone watching my wife command another room and photographing my youngest daughter with an Ewok until our world returns to a new iteration of normalcy that will once again allow adventures and exploration somewhere besides our home and our yard.