I drove to Fredericksburg to see a violent snowstorm whip through downtown.
That and laugh long and hard with two of my sisters.
The drive up 301 was bone dry and without incident (unlike the drive home). I walked into Kybecca Wine bar at 2:57 with the staff teasing me that they didn't open until 3:00.
At 3:02, the snow shower began without warning. There was no gradual buildup, no transition from light flakes to snow downpour.
All at once snow was coming down so hard you couldn't see across the street. Great gusts of wind blew snow horizontally down Charles and William Streets.
It was so weird, so sudden and unexpected, that both staff and customers rushed outside to take pictures of each other in the blizzard.
Well, not the digital Amish among us.
I stayed put and watched as the dramatic drop in temperature caused all the windows to fog up with our hot breath.
Forty five minutes later, it was all gone leaving everyone to return to their wine drinking in earnest.
By then we'd gotten a bottle of Bebe Prosecco Rose and settled in for the long haul.
Our get-together's purpose was twofold; we came to celebrate one of my favorite sister's recent birthday and to do some pre-gaming before my Dad's birthday dinner.
We had a lot to talk about and we only had four hours to do it in before being expected at the pre-dinner cocktail hour.
The conversation went something like this: near death experience, a weekly affair with an old girlfriend, sibling rivalry, drunken train trips, determining an anniversary's official date, advice I gave my sister when she started sleeping with her now-husband (who knew I used to advise on such?) and congratulations.
The food went something like this: Thai shrimp skewers, pistachio pesto gnocchi, bison and bleu cheese sliders, pesto pizza and Chincoteague oysters.
I shared some recent family stories I'd heard from various fam members, all to the amazement of my listeners.
Both are convinced I should be writing all this stuff down since no one else remembers it.
Even though we were soon off to eat again, two of us splurged on dessert, sharing the chocolate pot de creme and the Nutella and blackberries on grilled pound cake.
We delayed leaving for the inn and the festivities because a) the sister organizing everything is a royal pain and b) we were caught up in the post-5:00 blue sky and late afternoon light.
Wasn't it just a hot minute ago that it was black as night at 5:00? It's so wonderful to be on the other side of the Winter Solstice.
But all good things must come to an end and after many laugh attacks, too many questions about the state of my life and the unique pleasures of being with two sisters with whom I don't even need to finish my sentences, we decided to move to the inn.
Happy hour was a blur of hugs and greetings, followed by a move to the private dining room for dinner.
Our server Ryan was a Mary Washington student who couldn't have known what he was in for when he took tonight's shift.
Asking if any of us had any questions, my sarcastic aunt queried, "What's the meaning of life?"
Ryan blushed and said he was a little young to know yet, but that he was working on it.
The hand-cut French pork chops were the star of the evening but my seafood-loving family did acknowledge the much better than average crab cakes (primarily backfin) and the generous serving of pan-seared rockfish.
While the array of entrees had been impressive, the dessert choices were less so: apple pie, pecan pie and creme brulee.
I thought I'd made it clear to the restaurant world that not having a chocolate option is unacceptable.
All I can say is it was a good thing I'd scored dessert earlier or I might have been disappointed.
It was a birthday so there were shared memories, old jokes and much rolling of eyes at family-familiar quips.
A joke about trying to change one's mate resulted in my Dad responding with, "You haven't been listening, Grasshopper."
Let's just say that it wasn't directed at me.
When the party ended, I was happy to hit the road and return home, albeit a much colder place since the front moved through on the back of the whirlwind blizzard.
Cruising back on Route 301, I got almost into downtown Bowling Green (an oxymoron if ever there was one) when I saw flashing lights behind me and pulled over.
The female officer asked if I was in a hurry and then noted the case of alcohol and Chinese pinball machine in my back seat.
I had good explanations for both.
She asked for my license and registration before saying, "Have you been drinking?"
One drink since 7:00, I told her honestly and it was going on 11:00 at that point.
She went back to her car to run me through her computer while I cranked Bloc Party's "Sunday" and wished I could teleport home.
Returning with my documents, she sent me on my way telling me to drive safely.
I always do, ma'am. I have many vices, but speeding isn't one of them.
Besides, I wouldn't want to rush past another rogue snowstorm along the way.
When we need to rage through this life
There might be ones who are smarter than you
That have the right answers, that wear better shoes
Forget about those melting ice caps
We're doing the best with what we've got