Friday, October 12, 2012

Sister To Sister

I was elated this week to have a brief visit from my sister, Leslie who, as senior scientist in charge of the Viral Reference Laboratory of the Blood Systems Research Institute in San Francisco, stopped off in Baltimore for a few days on her way back from attending the annual conference of the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), held in Boston this year. After four days of meetings intended to advance hematologic technology and cellular therapies worldwide, including such heady subjects as Biovigilence Training and Immune Effector Mechanisms & Theraputics, I picked Leslie up at the Baltimore airport for what we hoped would be a soothing respite from her intense cranial exertion over the preceding days.
Leslie and me in the upland rainforest exhibit
An Atlantic puffin at the National Aquarium

We started by sleeping in.  Late.  I took the day off from work Wednesday and when we finally arose from our slumber, we shared a breakfast of sliced peaches and an omelet. With tickets in hand on a briskly gorgeous fall day, we proceeded to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where we spent several relaxing hours at our country's National Aquarium, closely inspecting the remarkable inhabitants, from Australian archerfish who spit forceful streams of water more than six feet through the air to knock crickets and other insects from their perches with uncanny accuracy, to the arctic lion’s mane jellyfish with tentacles historically stretching more than 120 feet in length. We marveled at the sawtooth and hammerhead sharks, wondering what Mother Nature intended by allowing such odd characteristics to survive eons of more mainstream evolutionary shifts.
Golden Lion Tamarin monkeys
And we delighted in watching as a pair of golden lion tamarin monkeys, observing the human activity below from lofty branches in the upland rainforest exhibit, suddenly scampered back into their enclosure and forcefully pulled the door shut behind them!  "An aversion to people", explained the friendly docent. The pair, cage-raised since birth, could take only so much interaction with humanoids, it seems, before finding it necessary to make a hasty retreat back to the security of their hut.  I could relate.

A 1/87 scale model of the City Center DC retail complex
Finally dragging ourselves away from the wondrous aquarium, we wandered up the Baltimore expressway to Xibitz Design and Fabrication (, inside which is housed a custom workshop owned by my former husband, Jesse Turner, of LIDCM Corporation (, who builds high-end architectural models for retail and mixed-use developers. Right now, Jesse and his crew of twenty employees are putting the finishing touches on an elaborate scale model of the forthcoming City Center DC shopping center.  Leslie and I were eager to see how Jesse’s latest project was coming along.  
Turtle-candy tart with Gran Marnier-enhanced whipped cream
After oohing and aahing over Jesse’s obvious mastery of his subject, my sister and I drove to the ever-expanding Towson Towne Center mall, where we spent a little time Christmas shopping at our favorite shelter stores, Pottery Barn and a newly opened Sur La Table. Then it was on to the supermarket for provisions and then home to relax in front of a crackling fire before sitting down to a dinner of our longtime family favorite – my late mother’s classic Caesar salad, followed by a decadent Turtle-candy tart with Gran Marnier-enhanced whipped cream – from a recipe I clipped recently out of Country Living magazine.
The Great Hall at the Library of Congress Jefferson building
On Thursday it was back to work for moi, so Leslie accompanied me on my lengthy commute by rail and car to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. for a day of research, which we enlivened with a look at the gorgeous Thomas Jefferson building, the original Library of Congress edifice, constructed in 1897 as a palatial monument to America’s appreciation of literature, science and art, which was designed to show how the United States could surpass European libraries in grandeur and devotion to classical literature. The elaborate fa├žade and interior of the entrance pavilion and great hall, for which more than forty American painters and sculptors produced commissioned works of art to inspire optimism about America’s future, was enthralling.

Once safely back at home, I built a roaring fire in the fireplace and made a flavorful apple-squash soup for our dinner, which I served with braised romanesque cauliflower brightened with garlic and lemon. As we considered the political ramifications of the evening’s vice-presidential debate, Leslie and I reveled in our closeness, enjoying the intimacy of our sisterhood, even though we are separated by fifteen years in age and were born of different mothers.

And early this morning, as I dropped Leslie off at the Baltimore airport for her return flight to northern California, I was glad to have spent such a wonderful past few days with my beloved sister. They are precious to me, these coastal visits, when we are apart from each other day to day by so many thousands of miles.
A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost ~ Marion C. Garretty

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