Henry Paulson ramping up production for the stimulus package: "Warp speed, Scottie!"
Gabe and I paid a weekend visit to Oldest Daughter in DC this weekend. O.D. graduates from college in less than 2 months, and the three of us had some memories to make.
Traveling with Gabe, 13, is a little like traveling with a dog. Give him some exercise and plenty to eat, and he's very happy. At the end of the day, a little cuddling disguised as tussling, and he passes right out.
But seeing Oldest Daughter living off-campus with four friends, keeping house and nailing down post-graduation employment, it quickly becomes clear how fast these people grow up and move on. A rabbi friend of mine likes to say at bar and mat mitzvahs that, once they're 13, you only have a literal fistful of years left with them under your roof. At 14 or 15 they start high school, at 16 they get behind the wheel, at 18, with any luck, they leave for college.
Washington is an impressive and somehow ominous city. It radiates self-importance. It bathes in self-reference. In the same way that the street grid radiates out from the Capitol and the White House, the muscle of its bureaucracy and the grandeur of its collective ego seems to peer down at you from Art Deco/New Deal facades, from grand memorials, from hidden cameras.
Washington's denizens have a seriousness and a purposefulness about them that even makes Sunday feel like a workday. I left Gabe asleep in the hotel room this morning and went to a Starbucks down the street; there they all were, studying the New York Times and Washington Post like yeshiva students poring over a page of Gemara. Or else hunched toward their laptops. In a way, it wasn't all that different from the basement lounge of the U of Chicago Divinity School. Only the coffee wasn't as good.
Most of Oldest Daughter's roommates joined us for breakfast. It came up in casual conversation that three of them came from homes where the parents had divorced. I'd forgotten how common it is. They had all already met O.D.'s biological father, and it felt like there was some amiable scrutiny occurring. Maybe not. When you're a step-parent, you just assume that's what's going on. More likely it was Sunday morning, they were a little tired, hung over or both, and they were just happy to be fed.
More sobering was the fact that their job prospects are dim. A couple of them are interning for media or PR companies. These internships would ordinarily lead to a job, but the companies have made clear that that's not going to happen this year. These young women are emerging into the worst job market of my lifetime, let alone theirs.
Middle Daughter has a job waiting for her after graduation. In government consulting -- surely one of the only growth industries out there. When I told my old man what she would be making, he shook his head. "That's more than I made in any one year of my entire working life," he said. She is lucky, but she's made a lot of her own luck. Still, there's so little of the self-important about her. She seems strangely . . . mellow.
Gabe and I flew home this afternoon, leaving our hearts with Oldest Daughter -- and also our camera. Perhaps she'll bring it home with her at Passover.