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Family Birthday

The hot and humid weather of the past couple of weeks has fostered an abundant crop of weeds in our yard. Hubby and I try to pull the weeds away from the rose bushes and the clematis. Hubby has about six sunflowers growing in the yard. Of course, the tallest one is right near the front stairs and will probably whack anyone in the face as soon as the huge flower head opens.

About a month ago, our phone rang on a Sunday. The caller was Hubby’s niece Beth. “Dad (Hubby’s brother John/AKA “Scotty”) is going to be 80 and we’re going to give him a big party. You must come.” I am leery of making plane reservations on line so I made a quick call to daughter Sue. “Don’t worry, Mom. I make all your reservations.” Within an hour, she got back to me.” You are leaving Friday morning, July 24.” There were no direct flights available to Norfolk, VA, so she had to book two connecting flights: one from Boston to Philadelphia; the second, from Philly to Norfolk. We could only spend a few days in Virginia because I had already taken off a week with our trip to Branson, Missouri, in May.

Niece Beth had mentioned that the party was to be held at her brother Pat and his wife Cathy’s home in Suffolk, VA. We had never been to that part of Virginia so Hubby paid a quick visit to the AAA Office in East Milton. A very helpful employee took all the info and said to come back on Monday and she would have a Triptik for us. Not only did she plot the route from Norfolk Airport to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express in Suffolk, but she also plotted the route from our hotel to Pat and Cathy’s home for the birthday cookout. Beth had told us that the Holiday Inn Express was very close to Pat and Cathy’s home so that would be the ideal place to stay. (It was a great place.) Daughter Sue also ordered a rent-a-car at the Norfolk Airport for us. We were all set to go.

As soon as niece Terri heard about the birthday, she also wanted to go. Her Mom, Hubby’s and John’s sister Peg, had hoped to go but she had just returned home after being hospitalized for two weeks. Her doctor advised her not travel, much to her disappointment. Terri called us and asked when we were leaving. She then called Sue and asked her to make arrangements for her on our flights to Virginia. She was thrilled to be going.

About 9 a.m. on Fri., June 24, Terri was at our home, all set to go. Hubby loaded her up with peanut butter-cheese crackers for her carry-on in case we were delayed at the airport. Sue piled all of us into her Dad’s car and we were off to Logan Airport. There was little traffic. (We thought that, maybe, some drivers were taking a long weekend.) We had time to get some McDonald’s Coffee and to split a muffin at the airport because we were so early. Then Hubby, Terri, and I went to our gate. The flight was on time and we boarded easily even though the plane was, ultimately, filled to capacity.

When we arrived in Philly, there was an airport golf cart as we came through the gate doorway. We piled into the cart and were taken to our next gate that was a good distance away. Because of the quick ride to the gate, we even had time to split a sandwich. (There was only one hour between flights.) We had soda on the first part of our journey but there wasn’t even soda, unless requested, on the second part of our trip because it was of such a short duration.

When we arrived in Norfolk, Hubby, Terri, and I went downstairs to get the rent-a-car. We began speaking with two people who were sitting at a “Welcome Desk” at the foot of the “down” escalator. They were there to welcome the Noble Group, black police officers from all over the country. We picked the right people to approach. The male police officer was from Suffolk, where we were staying, so he gave us a few hints on driving in rush-hour traffic. They wished us well since we would be driving in unfamiliar areas. Thanks to Sue’s arrangements, our car was ready for us.

Off we went from the airport garage, with Terri sitting in the front seat as co-pilot. With the AAA map and the AAA Triptik in hand, she guided Hubby through the intricate moves from one route to another. Hubby’s brother John and his wife Joe Ann live in Portsmouth so we were somewhat familiar with the area up to that point. This time we had to go farther, to Suffolk. With Terri directing, we made the journey to Suffolk in fairly quick time, considering rush-hour traffic.

As we got off the main route, we saw our hotel just a little way down on the left. Practically next to it was a Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurant. Hunger got the best of us and we stopped there first.

What a terrific restaurant we chose. At 5 p.m., the restaurant was already busy. (Of course it was a Friday evening-a busy night for restaurants.) We were fortunate to have the loveliest waitress, who was very considerate as we slowly looked over the menu. We explained to her that we had never been to one of these restaurants. We each had a wonderful meal. “Would you like some dessert?,” said the waitress. “Not really.” Then we saw the dessert menu on the table. We would just look it over. We succumbed. Terri got a piece of pie, with chocolate drizzle over it. Hubby and I split an ice cream tart, with strawberries. The strawberry tart was huge: thank goodness we hadn’t ordered two.

We waddled back to the car and drove the few feet to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express. The lobby was beautiful. There was a young woman at the registration desk. We registered and began to chat with her. She knew all about Boston because she has relatives here. She loves going to our Quincy Market. Since it was only about 7 p.m., we asked if there was a Wal Mart or even a K Mart close by. She gave us directions to the closest Wal Mart. We quickly put our suitcases in our room and headed for the store. Terri had not brought a bathing suit and the hotel’s pool, just outside the lobby, looked so inviting. We would check out the swimsuits. There will be more about our trip to Virginia in next week’s column. (It will be about Hubby’s brother John’s 80th birthday cookout.)

Thanks to info from daughter Sue, I read a poll in which Americans were able to vote for their favorite actor in the role of a U.S. President. Of course, Harrison Ford took 24 percent of the votes when he appeared in the 1997 movie, “Air Force One.” Morgan Freeman came in second with 16 percent for his portrayal in the 1998 movie, “Deep Impact.” Michael Douglas came in third as he played the widowed president in “The American President” (my favorite). Bill Pullman came in fourth for “Independence Day,” and Kevin Kline, number five, for his performance in “Dave,” also one of my favorites.

I was so pleased to see the article, with two photos, in the Quincy Sun newspaper, about the 60th wedding anniversary of our good friends Tom and Barbara Cheney. Tom and Barbara celebrated their anniversary with their family on June 25, the actual date of their wedding at St. Ann’s Church, Neponset, in 1949. They have raised seven children and are now enjoying their 15 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. They live in the Hough’s Neck area of Quincy and are active in their local parish. Mayor Tom Koch of Quincy issued a proclamation declaring that June 25, 2009 was Tom and Barbara Cheney Day in Quincy. Congratulations are sent to Tom and Barbara from all the McDonoughs and from all your many family members and friends in the Neponset area.

Hubby saw this info in one of the daily newspapers and gave these upcoming events to me to put on my calendar. On Fri., Sept. 18, the Queen Victoria will be in Boston for the day. She is now the third largest passenger ship. (The Freedom of the Seas, at 208 feet long, is the largest; the Oasis of the Sea is the second largest.) On Sun., Oct. 18, the impressive Queen Mary 2 will be in Boston and will return to Boston on Sat., Oct. 31. If you get a chance to see either of these ships, be sure you bring your camera. They are magnificent even when docked.

I was sorry to hear Fr. George Carrigg tell us at Mass that his grandniece Shealyn Carrigg had died unexpectedly on July 25. Fr. George and his brother, Fr. Bill Carrigg, were among the priests who concelebrated the funeral Mass. Hubby, daughter Sue, and I are among the parishioners of St. Christopher’s who send our sympathy to Shealyn’s parents, her brothers, her grandmother Kay, and to her many other relatives, in particular to Fr. George and Fr. Bill.

The older I become, the more I believe this statement by Bertrand Russell: “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”