Saturday, December 22, 2012

...with daughters

It surprises me no end that there is no snow in Chicago. It's plenty cold, but somehow that drop in temperature did not coincide with any precipitation and so the streets and sidewalks are dry. Though isn't snow only a burden in the city? Downtown,  does it have any virtue at all? Any aesthetic value?

Of course, most people, my Chicago daughter included, don't live exactly downtown. Chicago, unlike New York, has the largest concentration of people living not in high-rise apartments, but in buildings that are relatively small and squat. Walk-ups, most of them.

My girl lives with her guy in one such place and as I tend to be up earlier than anyone in most any household, I have a chance to look around with greater care and admire her artistry in designing their interior. (In another life, one that is purely imagined by me, that is what she should have done for a living -- design interiors). It's not that she buys things to create a perfect setting, it's that she'll use what she has in ways that are so creative that I sort of wonder where she got this talent. No one in the familial generations before her has especially demonstrated such gifts.

There's a Christmas tree and holiday touches throughout.

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One of the nice things about visiting her (and, too, when her sister lived away from Madison, she and I did this as well) is that we go out to brunch. Ed and I never do this. Ever. The closest we come is when we travel and stay at hotels that have included in the price breakfast buffets and we stuff ourselves silly so that we don't have to eat again until late.

This time my youngest, her guy and I go to Nellcote, a place that is just west of the river downtown. It's well regarded for the food and for the funky atmosphere. Yes, I'd agree -- those are its notable features. A movie is in progress in a few screens so that if you want, you can enjoy Love, Actually with your food. And the food is total heaven!

After, we walk downtown, pausing at a pastry shop for warm up drinks and treats.

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And, to make the joy even more complete, we're joined by my older girl and her husband, who have driven down to start the progression of family holiday events here, in Chicago (they're all having dinner with their dad tomorrow). The five of us stroll through a very crowded but very festive Christmas Market. Mom's with the camera. Sometimes that's a good thing.

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(Throughout the day, I pester KLM about the suitcase and finally, in the late afternoon, I learn that the bags made it to Madison. From that airport it's just a hop skip to the farmhouse and so my confidence that we will be reunited before the holidays surges!)

It's a mid-twenties kind of day in Chicago and I am reminded how the wind here kicks down those readings a bit. But, there are warm up spots and happy crowds and I feel so totally grateful that my kids would spend their precious free time in this way, hanging out with a person who is old enough that she repeats her stories, not infrequently (just ones told the night before!).

In the evening, I catch the El to the airport…

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...where I pick up the bus to take me home. It's a three hour ride and yes, I'd prefer a train, but this is good enough. And as we pull in, Ed's waiting and we pick up Chinese take out on our way home where there aren't any suitcases yet, but I feel their presence in town and that, too, is good enough. Life isn't perfect, but in my corner of the universe, it's feeling mighty close to it.

short day, late post

There some things that are just so predictable. That the temperatures would eventually plummet in Wisconsin. That when KLM told me I'd see my suitcase and duffel bag a day later, they didn't mean it. That heavy snow would cause branches to fall and tree tops to lean (luckily away from the house).

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And that a sunny day would make it all much less burdensome.

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(Less predictable was seeing this cardinal outside. I chased him all the way to the old barn -- he just would not sit still for a photo!)

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It's the year's shortest day and, on the upside, aren't we all relieved that the tide now shifts and each day will be longer? Doesn't that make us all think spring thoughts? (To a point: it really is cold outside.)

There's an upside to the missing suitcase situation as well. I learned two years ago that when an overseas airline messes with your luggage, you can get back at them by sending them the bill for the inconveniently missing necessities. So that as I packed a little backpack today for an overnight in Chicago and realized that my winter cap, my best pants and all best shirts were stuck somewhere in Detroit (why Detroit? and if there, why not on the next available flight to Madison -- because there were many such flights on this bright blue skied day? I can't even begin to understand...), I knew it was time to treat myself well and send KLM the bill. I forewarned them that the bills would start multiplying and they conceded that this surely is justifiable, within reason. Me, I'll choose my own definition of what is within reason. Because I'm not sure an airline that is sitting on luggage without signs of moving it out and onwards is in a good position to discuss reasonableness with me.

And so after a productive grading morning, I hopped back on the Chicago bus and went downtown to shop. Silly things (but missing nonetheless) like a hairbrush and essentials such as that what you'll find at Victoria's Secret (no kidding -- all my good ones are in that suitcase). And, though I typically do not like shopping, there is some small pleasure in doing this on someone else's bill.

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(On a bus from the El Blue Line to Michigan Avenue,  I listened with a smile to the conversation of these two beautiful young beings. It put me right back into the high school frame of mind. In a good way.)

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Time flies when you're looking for a warm cap and decent underwear. Or is it that darkness comes early on the shortest day? Probably both.

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I'm in Chicago obviously not just to shop. It's been a while since I came down to spend a few good hours with my little girl and her guy. Close as this is to Christmas (at which time I will see them, albeit briefly, up in Madison), it is worth every minute to just be with them on their own turf.

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We eat dinner at the fantastic Trenchermen -- a place that has such a creative flair that it nudges me again not to take too many shortcuts in my own cooking back home. That extra effort can produce memorable meals.

Later today (Saturday) I'll be back on the bus to Madison. Only to be on this same bus again next Saturday,  but with Ed then, so that we can finally take off on our long planned trip to... No, wait, that's next week's story.