When I was a freshman at Georgetown, studying first year Japanese, a friend from class and I decided to make an early-morning excursion to see the cherry blossoms at the Jefferson Memorial at sunrise. Kim Majewski (a.k.a. Mayawaki-san in Sekine-sensei’s Japanese class) and I walked at 4-something a.m. from the our dorm on the Reservoir Road side of Georgetown to the Tidal Basin. By the time we got to the Tidal Basin, we decided not to go half-way round again, and stayed across from the Jefferson Memorial. It was lovely seeing the sunrise, and we had plenty of time to go over our dialogue for Japanese class and discuss our personal lives.
However, we noticed something odd across at the Jefferson Memorial. There were LOTS of people on the steps at 6:00am. As freshmen, we simply assumed that watching the cherry blossoms at sunrise was a bigger deal than we thought.
We walked back to Georgetown and stopped at Au Croissant Chaud for café au lait. (Am I the only one who really misses that place?) We met a gentleman coming out of his car going into the bakery, who for some reason seemed intent on teasing us for being self-indulgent.
“Well, we just came from the Jefferson Memorial,” I explained.
“So did I,” he said.
“Well, we walked.”
“You’re meshugunah,” he replied.
Well, we found out from him that it happened to be the Jewish holiday, Birkat HaChamah. The holiday commemorates where the Jews believe the sun rose when the earth was created and only occurs every 28 years. And Kim and I , in our college-age determination to absorb Japanese culture, accidently were there for sunrise on this obscure Jewish holiday.
I read in the paper today, that yesterday was Birkat HaChamah again. Obviously it brought back fond memories of that morning. It makes me wonder where Kim is today (not having any luck Googling her and I’ve avoided contact with the Georgetown Alumni organization). It makes me think about the next 28 years of my life and wonder where I’ll be in 2037.
I can’t think of any songs about Birkat HaChamah, so I’m just going to listen to Brandon Cutrell’s amazing version of Halley’s Comet.