Saturday, December 20, 2008

slushy sentimentalism

I would have headed home Friday morning, but there were plenty of warnings to stay off the roads until the crews could push back the foot of snow that fell overnight in southern Wisconsin. I delayed my return, therefore, and daughters and I headed for the center of downtown Chicago – the Daley Plaza. [Daughters will be coming to Madison for their winter vacation late Saturday. Me, I need to get things ready for their arrival. More on that in my next post.]

Since my Chicago visit was to be a “one nighter” (later, after Christmas, we’ll return for a slightly longer spell in the city), I was dressed more for a long car ride than for a walk in city snow. You know how cities feel after a snowfall? Slushy and wet. You hope that there’ll be stretches where someone has cleared a path for you, but it’s not guaranteed.

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Over time, the snow turns into mush. At the curb, icy lakes form and you have to dive right in. There’s no other way of getting from one block to the next.

Within minutes, my little black socks and the decorative but insignificant black boots and all ten toes are soaked. Swimming in shoe slush.

Not important. We’re downtown now and it is seasonally festive and colorful here. We make our way (past countless signs announcing the danger of falling icicles) to the Daley Plaza, where vendors have set up stalls in much the same way holiday market stalls have appeared in most towns and cities of Europe (and especially Germany).

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Daughters eat hot dogs and potato pancakes and I slurp gl├╝hwein…

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..which warms my insides but stops short of warming my toes.

We pass stall after stall with colorful crafts and we look up at the display of trees that borders the market.

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… and because it is close by, we stroll over (did I say stroll? Slosh is a better choice here) to Macy’s. Daughters pause to admire the holiday windows.

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If someone would have told me, when I was little that, for all of my adult life, I would be in some way connected to the city of Chicago I would have said – not possible. Too stodgy, sprawly, dangerous, brutal, cold, corrupt. But, things change, people change, cities change. As the cop shouts out happy holidays to the people whom she helps cross the crazy intersection, as the snow is pushed back by the sanitation workers, who also take a moment to throw snowballs at each other,

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… it strikes me that I may even like Chicago more than New York now (I have spent an equal number of years in both by now). Weird how you can open up to a place you just couldn’t wait to leave way back when. Or maybe that in the holiday season, sloshing through the wet puddles and underneath falling icicles with daughters, you get kind of sentimental about a place.

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It was dark by the time I pulled up by Bascom Mall back in Madison. I walked into my office, took off my shoes and dripping socks and massaged my toes for a good many minutes.