Mt. Vernon Register-News

Features

December 6, 2013

A 67-year-old caroling tradition

WASHINGTON — Last Christmas Eve at 5, the long-running caroling tradition in Kenwood, a neighborhood in Chevy Chase, Md., seemed to be on a very wet track to coming to an end. The bitterly cold rain that evening refused to turn into snow. I could see from my window that no one was in the circle where the giant Christmas tree stood. There should have already been a crowd drinking hot chocolate, chatting and getting ready to sing.

Kenwood, the same Kenwood known across Washington for its cherry trees, has a Christmas caroling tradition that, to its residents, is just as profound as the cherry blossoms. I had gone every year since I moved into the neighborhood in 1997, and now all I could think was: Could this really be the end of that tradition? My family and I got our umbrellas and boots, and slogged over to the circle to find out.

As we approached, we suddenly saw three people standing near the tree. One was an older woman I recognized from past Christmas Eves. She was the vibrant person always playing the electric piano, accompanying the carolers. I knew nothing else about her.

"Ruthanna here," one woman said, pointing at our piano-less pianist, "was the one who started this whole caroling tradition in Kenwood. She's been doing this since World War II when she was in the Navy."

Old enough to be in World War II?! Was that even possible? I was disoriented just doing the mental math. She might as well have said Ruthanna used to split logs with Abe Lincoln.

I had to know two things: Was a tradition that old about to end? And who is this woman?

Just days after the Germans sank the Lusitania and two years before the United States even entered World War I, Ruthanna Maxwell was born, on May 31, 1915, in the small town of Findlay, Ohio.

Text Only
Features
  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 22, 2014

  • Do your genes make you procrastinate?

    Procrastinators, in my experience, like nothing better than explaining away their procrastination: General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of the excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have added another option to the list: genetics.

    April 21, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 11, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 9, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks