Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day


A misty sky hangs over Chicago. On a crisp day, I'd see the downtown skyline from my twelfth floor hotel window. Today, very early, before the city lights have been switched off, I see only wisps of fog.


My younger girl has asked me to come over for breakfast, but in my special hotel promo package, I have a free meal here as well. I can't pass on that! And so my Christmas breakfast number one reminds me very much of Paris.


And my hosts are a lovely and lively crew -- serving attentively the only person (at 8:30 a.m.) in the hotel restaurant -- me.


I walk then to my girl's home. Along familiar blocks...


...stopping at times to read unfamiliar posts and placards. This one made me pause. What's Team Edward? Surely no reference to the Ed I know!


Of course not. It's about vampires and werewolves. Movie stuff. Not something I'd every pick off a library shelf. Here, for your info, taken from the internet:

In reference to Edward Cullen, of the Twilight Saga. People on Team Edward prefer him over Jacob Black (see Team Jacob). People on Team Edward ... prefer vampires over werewolves (Edward is a vampire, Jacob is a werewolf).Team Edward fans are very devoted, and are a force to be reckoned with. 

All stores are of course closed, but displays are well lit. Funky urban, pretty, and of course Christmasy. Except for one place that gives a nod to another holiday that coincidently this year, also began last night.


My daughter and her husband have been up and working hard. She is baking cake number two, he's keeping the place in order.


We pause over my second breakfast -- a delicious, gifted Italian panettone. So aromatic and yummy!


Her baking project is done (a cranberry upside down cake).


They pack up to travel to her dad's. I'll join them a bit later. For now, I set out to walk back to the hotel, except I don't immediately go there. I'm right by a church where a Polish Christmas Mass is taking place. I go inside...


I know this is Chicago, but the association of this town with Poland isn't as strong as it once was. Yet here I am on Christmas Day, listening to a beautiful rendition of a Polish carol...

I resume my walk. I'm up on the 606 trail that weaves its way through this neighborhood. As I stop to admire the street scenes, a woman comes up and tells me -- if you look that way, you'll see straight into the garden of Rick Bayless (the famous Chicago chef).  I take a peek. It's lovely, though of course utterly frozen now.

Chicago is an unusual place: it's a city of countless neighborhoods. As I tell my fellow walker that my daughter has just moved to this area, the woman smiles and says -- welcome to you all. Her words feel rather small townish and sweet.

There, I'm within sight of my hotel -- the tall building of this area.


...right by the El (where there is more of a sense of activity now that the morning is drawing to a close).



 I watch Chicago come into view. Sure, the tallest of the tall buildings stay hidden, as if they aren't ready for a public showing just yet, but the skyline is definitely taking shape.


It's time to pack a suitcase (and a bag, or two, or three) with gifts and meet up with my family at my daughters' dad's place. Snowdrop and her parents are just arriving and the little one embarks on her second round of gift opening (having had her first round at home, exhausting herself in the joy of it all, but luckily, giving herself a solid rest on the drive down to Chicago).

Everyone is at the top of the top today, and this surely includes the littlest one of the bunch.


Snowdrop distributes, unwraps, smiles, and generally behaves as if she were trying her darnedest. Which perhaps she is...



(A penguin raincoat? Cool!)



Of course, not all the presents are about her, or for her.


But kids do tend to take  center stage during the holidays. This is no surprise! We watch them play and we remind ourselves of out own playfulness, sometimes hidden, sometimes percolating to the surface. Yes, we are small in the scheme of things. Tell me otherwise!


Toward dusk, we switch venues. My younger girl will be hosting us (and her husband's family) for a Christmas feast and it is indeed a feast! Sure, I try to help, but she'd done all the prep work in advance and so my contribution is to stir things that are ready to be stirred.

Her husband's family cheers on.



And the thing is, my girls are so lucky, because their husbands' families are so good at cheering on! Life is precious -- let's be sure to hold it tight and close!





(Come play now!)



The food is beyond magnificent. There are dips and home made crackers and meatballs and shrimp. There's a roast with baked mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. There are the cakes, the pies...

It's hours past her bedtime, but Snowdrop pushes away tiredness and settles in between the big guys to watch Norwegians try to catch salmon on television.


The evening of great food (and I mean great food -- you could not begin to describe the labor of love that went into dish preparation here) draws to a close.


One reminds the girl to say "thank you" as she leaves, but how can we hope to express our gratitude in this small way at the end of the day?

Still, it's worth a shot -- thank you. Thank you thank you thank you to all who made this holiday so very beautiful!


Good night.