Starting the Christmas Season in Chicago

IMG_9973 (2)For the third year in a row, we’ve spent the week of Thanksgiving in the Midwest, dividing our time between family and the city of Chicago. We never set out to start a tradition here; it’s just the way it’s worked out for us so far. We even tried spending Christmas in Chicago one year, but Thanksgiving seems to work better for us, and with the decorations already in full swing, it’s a great way to usher in the Christmas season.

IMG_9924This year, our first stop was at The Oriental Institute. Someone had tuned LCB into the impressive nature of the museum’s collection of artifacts, so we were able to nerd it up for two full hours.

IMG_9936IMG_9923As a bonus, it’s located on the University of Chicago campus, right next to Rockefeller Chapel. I suspect the kids thought it much ado about broken tablets and pottery, but LCB and I found the museum fascinating, and I love the architecture of the U. of C. campus.

IMG_9984 (2)We also spent the better part of an afternoon at The Field Museum, exploring things like the Ancient Egypt exhibit (lots of mummies), the Underground Adventure (you “shrink” to the size of a bug), and of course the dinosaurs (led by the famous Sue the T.rex).

It’s also important to note that we ate pizza twice during our Windy City stay, much to the kids’ disappointment; they’d been rooting for a third time.

IMG_9961Despite the fact that we did this last year, we spent another afternoon at Millennium Park and the next door Art Institute of Chicago. We ended up with free access to the Art Institute, so LCB and I had originally decided to take a quick trip there ourselves. As we were leaving our hotel, however, two of the three kids changed their minds and wanted to come with us, so we bribed the third (The possibility technically exists that we’ll stop for chocolate!) and off we went.

IMG_9969 (2)Afterward, we ate a late lunch that turned into an early dinner at the Walnut Room (in the former Marshall Field’s now turned Macy’s on State Street). One point of interest: A small princess delegation was there that day (not sure if this is a holiday thing) walking around asking to sprinkle magic dust (very fine glitter, it seemed) on the kids. Baby-Girl, still deep in her belief that expressing an interest in princesses will reflect poorly on her developing adultness, did her best to try to sink into the depths of her winter coat and remain unnoticed. However, one friendly princess persisted, and due to her parents’ insistence on politeness, the princess managed a mini-sprinkle while the boys looked on in horror. It was close there for a second, but the boys themselves were able to escape being sprinkled by doing their best to look suddenly manly. I bring this up for those of you who have smaller children; in years past, Baby-Girl would have loved this. When she was younger, I used to dread the princess lines that seemed to last forever, but this is a way to slip in a princess visit while eating and perhaps while even consuming an adult beverage if you so desire. Just saying.

Other highlights included a visit to Water Tower Place, a jazz service at Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue, a steak dinner for LCB and myself, and just walking the streets of the city at night.

On our last day in the city, we hailed a cab to take us to the rental car we would be using to drive to see family. And this is where this recap would probably have concluded…if we had taken any other cab but the one we did.

To be continued…

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Thanksgiving Observations and Wishes

IMG_9805 (2)This Thanksgiving, I am profoundly grateful for so many blessings.

But also, in anticipation of what I sense I will be consuming, I’d like to quote the all-wise Kevin James, who made me laugh with this:

“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.”

Happy Thanksgiving to all y’all!

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Gratitude for Those Silver-Haired Women

100_8504Several years ago, I wrote a post about how I hope I’ll spend my old age. Almost half a decade later, I’ve still got quite a few years left before I reach that status (despite what a fast food cashier believed last year). But I think about that post sometimes, and more specifically about the silver-haired women I saw that day, the ones who laughed and made old age seem more desirable than youth.

I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that I am so thankful for those women and for the snapshot of life I was given. They couldn’t have possibly known what they did that afternoon, but as we approach a holiday that centers around gratitude, it seems an appropriate expression of mine to repost my original thoughts.

So thank you to them and to all the women throughout my life who’ve allowed me to see the preciousness of the laughter that comes with age.

100_4317When I Am an Old Woman

Two days before we left Chicago to move to one of the Carolina islands, the owner of the duplex we had rented there for the off-season suddenly decided that his duplex wasn’t really ready for renters. He did, however, offer to let us rent his nearby condo while we searched for a new place, an offer we took only because we didn’t have time to secure other lodging immediately. At the time, this was relatively stressful; we had just put most of our things in storage, loaded up our car and our newly-purchased minivan complete with car top carrier, and were ready to head down to Carolina with a six-week-old and a two-year-old in tow. Ultimately, this abrupt change was a good thing, leading us to a different island that, in the end, was a much better fit for our family. But when we first got there, we were desperate to find a new place, unpack our vehicles, and settle in. And, we were eager to see if living on an island in the Carolinas was something we could see ourselves doing more permanently. So we combed the internet and spent countless hours driving the coast those first few days, looking at houses on different islands.

On one of the first days, somehow we stumbled on a house for rent on the island we had originally targeted. It was small, and right on the main road leading through the island. It was a mildly charming house from the outside, but we knew quickly that it was all wrong for us from a practical standpoint. The layout left no room for LCB to have an office with any measure of sound protection, an obvious necessity with two small children adept at producing high volume with regularity. And, while many features of the inside were appealing, the floors, oddly out of place with the rest of the house, looked like locker room floors. I kept staring at them, a bit disconcerted, trying to figure out what they were. The coup de grace, however, was the washer and dryer located underneath the house in what looked like a huge, totally unfinished and highly creepy crawl space without light.

Call me odd (which would be fair), but I just like feeling a sense of cleanliness within the environment where I wash the family’s clothes, rather than feeling like I’m in a hiding spot deep within the Underground Railroad.

But after coming out of that dark, dingy laundry space under the house, we moved up to the front of the house, by the ocean. It was a bright, cloudless day, and the sun blinded me as I climbed the stairs, contrasting starkly with the bowels of the house. Inside the house, at the kitchen table sat five women, all silver-haired, playing cards and laughing with abandon. They were so engrossed in their game and whatever it was they were laughing at that I hated to interrupt the moment for them. It was a scene I wanted to stand and watch.

It was a moment that made old age, even with all its wrinkles and ailments and uncertainties, look more desirable than youth.

We exchanged pleasantries with the women for a few moments, and then, not wishing to disturb them any longer, I moved beyond them into a long, narrow screened-in porch that ran the length of the front of the house. It was high tide, so the ocean was close to the house, running several shades of blue and green. There, along the length of the porch were several wooden rocking chairs, each one painted a different bright color. A small table covered with copies of Southern Living sat in the middle of the chairs. The chairs rocked lightly, moved by the breeze coming off the ocean. I stood there, so new to the idea of a life lived by the sea, absorbing everything. I stood until it would have been awkward to remain longer.

Until the day I die, I’ll see that porch and that ocean, and I’ll hear the laughter of those women behind me. I’ll see it as clearly as if I were experiencing it anew.

The poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph begins with the line, “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple,” and then goes on to list all of the things the poet will do when she is old and no longer restrained by the responsibilities she now has.

When I am an old woman, I don’t know what I’ll be wearing. But, I do know what I hope I’ll be doing, and where I hope I’ll be doing it.

When I am an old woman, I shall sit in my rocking chair and rock by the sea. And I’ll think about those women, on that day so long ago, and I’ll remember how the light streamed through that front porch as I stood there inhaling a sea more turquoise than anything, the laughter of the women behind me.

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