Ask any long-time married couple why their marriage is a success and you’ll get a lot of varied, and sometimes amusing, answers. For us, it has been when each of us uses our strengths and skills and experiences to compliment the other.
One of the many, many reasons we have been together for nearly 40 years is Ellen’s varied abilities, one of which is her trip planning skills, an area in which I am woefully inadequate. Once we decide where we want to go, I step aside and the next thing I know we’re there. (OK, it’s a bit more complicated, but it sure seems simple from my position on the sidelines advising.) Travel arrangements. Hotels. Excursions. Meals. It’s all done. And that’s not even mentioning packing, an art Ellen has mastered, though she now admits that she tries to get way too many items in way too many pieces of luggage. Like the time in Bath, England, when school children there took OUR pictures because of how much luggage we had.
She has also mastered the art of improvisation. For example: Wednesday.
Several weeks ago, we planned a trip to Annapolis, Md., to celebrate Ellen’s birthday. (She’s not getting older, she’s getting better and more beautiful!) A highly rated B&B was booked, her schedule modified and we were set. Her dream for the day was to visit a local state park, dip her feet in the water and read.
And then it rained. And rained. And rained. The ensuing weeks were dreary and dismal with reports of flooding throughout the region. With dark clouds threatening to ruin her birthday, we left Tuesday unsure of what we would happen.
It was great. A few rain showers slowed the drive, but once we got to Annapolis the weather was just blah…but the town wasn’t. After checking in to the Flag House Inn (one of the best we’ve ever stayed at with great owners, Marty and Carmel Etzel), we wandered around Annapolis. It was everything you would expect of both an historic city, home to the U.S. Naval Academy (more about that later) and the capital of Maryland.
Our wandering took us along many streets and eventually to the State House, the oldest U.S. state capitol in continuous use since 1772. Though not the largest one we’ve ever been in, it was one of the most beautiful in which one of the most historic events of our nation’s history occurred. It was there on Dec. 23, 1783, that then-Gen. George Washington voluntarily resigned his military commission to the Continental Congress. A statue stands in the spot where Washington spoke, his handwritten speech encased in a display nearby.
And then it rained. Hard. To Ellen’s disappointment, the state park trip was justifiably cancelled. In its place, we thought we’d walk across the street from the inn to the U.S. Naval Academy. It was a serendipitous decision, leading to a morning of history and privilege.
The history of the academy is online at https://www.usna.edu but the site doesn’t do justice to these hallowed grounds upon which have walked heroes who have shaped…and saved…our nation. The visitor center orients you to the grounds and points out some of the highlights. We didn't take one of the guided tours but just wandered the campus.
Late last month, the Class of 2022, the plebes, arrived to start their military careers. We didn't know if we would see them, but we had the chance when, while touring the museum, a company of plebes joined us.
It was interesting to see these outstanding young men and women who are starting what I know will be long and faithful service to our nation looking at the history of the institution to which they are now committed. Like us, they were seemingly fascinated by the history displayed in the exhibits and to know they are now part of that legacy.
The highlight was the noon formation in front of Bancroft Hall when all 1,200 plebes in their white uniforms (Side note: Every plebe had a belt from which hung a canteen…and a small squeeze bottle of hand sanitizer. Health safety is important in large groups.) While waiting for everyone to form up, some companies recited the various items they have to memorize and some even sang the Marine Corps hymn.
Once assembled, a drum began a beat to which they all marched to lunch. While their precision marching was still a bit ragged, their pride in being part of the brigade was evident. Despite the rain that briefly hit, it was a privilege to watch our future leaders, even at their young ages, serve. These true patriots deserve our thanks and respect for what they are doing and for what they will do for us as a nation. We owe them much.
We took a circuitous route on the way home with a stop here and there, knowing that sometimes all who wander are not lost.