Friday, August 31, 2018

end of Chicago days, end of August, end of summer

Suitcase packed, apartment locked. One fond look at the rumbling "L" train just a stone's throw from my windows and I'm off to be with Primrose. I wont be coming back -- from her home, I'll go straight to the train, then the bus, then home. Farmhouse home.

But this morning, I'm walking Chicago streets again. With the murals that send those good messages...


I'm out there with the early dog walkers. Before the morning rush of people sprinting to work.


It's a good, calm way to start one's day.

Hello, Primrose!


(Still enjoying her watermelon...)


(And still seemingly enjoying our selfie play...)


When she naps, I eat breakfast. That's our routine.


(And so is a morning change of wardrobe!)


But midday is a little different. Snowdrop's mom takes a work break to have lunch with us. Yes!


The three of us join in on today's adventure and that makes the littlest one (and the oldest one!) bouncy with delight.


We eat at Hot Chocolate. Primrose insists that she wants to be in on the conversation. She has a wide vocal range. We try to keep up with her.



A quick side step to Jeni's ice cream shop and now we're back to our play. Just Primrose and me -- sweet sweet child that I know so well at this second, even as I know tomorrow she may have moved on to bigger and better things. Never assume that you know your little ones inside out. Their goal in life is to surprise you. Every day.

As I ride the late late bus home, I very much feel like I'm in the last hours of my crazy summer of everything. Tomorrow, I'll wake up to September -- the beginning of something entirely different. Or at least refreshed and wiped to a new shine. Oh, but the summer's sweet memories linger. All those blooming flowers, all those smiling children...

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Chicago days

I have the morning off, as Primrose is spending a half day at her new day care center. The weather outside is splendid, I have Chicago at my fingertips. So what do I do? I catch up on rest and leave the idea of exploring the city for another time.

It's not that I don't know the place. I lived here while attending graduate school. And, we did Chicago get-away weekends all the time as the kids were growing up. Then, of course, family members set up permanent shop in the Windy City and so I once again resumed the rather regular treks here.

Still, cities don't ever stay the same. If you last saw Warsaw twenty years ago, your memories would be snapshots of a past that is no more. On the surface, Chicago's changes may be less dramatic (in the way that Paris at some level seems very much as it was decades ago), but they are felt in every neighborhood. And still, in all these cities -- Warsaw, Paris, Chicago -- I am happiest staying within the small range of my favorite go-to neighborhoods. And so this time too, I move around Bucktown and Wicker Park and on my free morning, I go no further than that.

But I do take tiny steps beyond my usual orbit. For example, I do a late breakfast at Ipsento Coffee Shop on Western Avenue. Still Bucktown, but not in a set of blocks I usual navigate. The Coffee Shop is almost Madison-like in style: deliberately casual.


(Ipsento prides itself in great coffee. A croissant egg sandwich goes well with it!)


Walking back, I get another view of the building where I'm renting a set of rooms. Mine are the ones in the back, looking right out at the "L" train station!


And now I'm in my comfortable walk again, making my way through the residential blocks to Primrose's home.


The little girl had a successful time in her new school. At home, she is ready to eat!


And nap. In my mind, her day was full of the excitement of the new. But she seems undaunted and unperturbed by it all. We easily slide into our old routines.


But babies, like cities, change. And they do so with the speed of lightening. Yesterday, I was admiring Primrose's strong sit. Today, I'm seeing that she really does love to stand.


Evening. As I stroll the blocks of this corner of the city, first with Primrose and later -- on my own, I see many many young families. Oftentimes there will be grandparents in the picture. Maybe summer invites the grandparents to come up and lend a hand. Or maybe it's just one of those Chicago things: extended families aren't that far away.

I smile at this universal dedication to the youngest members of our families. People -- they're complicated. Oftentimes we can't understand what makes them tick. Why even try. But kids -- they're all beautiful and they come to us unencumbered. They want food and unfettered love. We can do that! We give them hugs, we pay attention. We forgive their missteps. We devote every last ounce of energy to their well being. And those who came before us and those who will come after -- they will give of themselves as much, for those little guys who mean the world to us all.

It's a nice thought to have about our common humanity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Chicago days

I always said that weather in the city is far less important than it is, say, at the farmette.

That was before I moved into an apartment for the week, one that's a little over a mile from my daughter's Chicago home. And before I discovered that my sweet little granddaughter likes nothing more than a stroller ride in the middle of the day. A long stroller ride.

 City lights are on at 7:15 in the morning. It's dark out there! Puddles on the streets, on the sidewalk too, and above that complicated urban landscape -- the threat of more rain.


I walk briskly once again.

Breakfast, while the babe takes her morning nap.


And then I consider our options.

As usual, the forecasters are waffling. Thundershowers. Morning rain. No, afternoon rain. Partly cloudy otherwise. No, actually cloudy all day long. With possible rain.

Primrose and I play indoors... She is agreeable.


(Ready to eat!)


...but in the end, I throw caution to the wind (and an umbrella into the stroller). It's not raining right now.

It's cooler today. Sweater weather.


I have big adventuring ideas (as perhaps does she)...


... but I play it safe and start off with the essentials: stocking up on some peaches from the Local Foods store. (Primrose, do you mind if I throw some fruit in your stroller just for a few seconds?)


And sure enough, as soon as we leave the store, the drizzle starts. It doesn't stay with us for long, but I have no way of knowing that, and so I hurry back home.

That's okay. There's plenty to do indoors. And somewhere in those afternoon hours, I take two more selfies -- one with a timed release, and one that's the old fashioned kind. (And if you're wondering why there is this sudden burst of selfie photos -- after all, I rarely do this with Snowdrop or Sparrow -- it's really because Primrose is at an age where she can sit by herself, but not for very long. In a selfie, I can support her just a little bit. I do think the camera's red light catches her by surprise every time, but she does like the game, in the way that a child always loves a project that brings out the giggles in everyone.)



Early evening. The witching hours for any young child. But Primrose is easy to keep mellow. All you need to do is... yep! take her for a walk. And mention that she's soon going to see mommy!


I leave the two young girls to their joyful reunion.


As I walk back to my apartment, I think about how close we are to the end of summer. Tomorrow, Primrose is testing her new "school" in the morning and on Friday, Snowdrop is testing her new class. For me, there may be a New Year's Eve out there, but a fresh year really does begin with the first day of school. We get that chance to begin again, as school kids, or as parents and grandparents of school kids: a clean slate, or at the very least -- a new lunchbox or pencil case! Oh, how I loved my new pencil case each year as a child! (In my Polish first grade, the case held no pencils, as we started our writing lessons using pens dipped in inkwells; my "pen case" was a wooden box with a sliding top).

And so I am facing up to the season's end. Good bye you much awaited summer! You have been nothing short of remarkable!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Chicago days

I step outside, ready to do a quick 20 minute hike over to the youngest family's home. Oh my, but it's dark outside. A rumble of thunder confirms my suspicion that we're in for a storm. Should I Uber over? I can't be late or they will be late!

(The street where I live, looking toward the downtown)


I cross my fingers and set out, walking very very briskly.

Phew, dodged that bullet!

So many of our storms this year seemed to come out of nowhere. And others never materialized. It's as if there's a great disturbance up there in the skies and you just can't tell when it'll peek to a rousing crescendo or release anger with torrents of rain.

If I've been spared a big one so far here, in Chicago, Madison has not been so lucky. Ed helped with piling sand bags yesterday, but the rains continue and the flooding is serious.

Breakfast, with lights on against a dark sky outside.


Primrose is ready for an adventure, but I'm a little apprehensive. I do not want to be caught out in a storm. Let's play here for a while -- I tell her.


(Pause for necessary wardrobe adjustment...)


The sun is out! Let's go!


Our walk is long. I don't know why Primrose enjoys these neighborhood hikes, but she does -- chewing, watching, grinning away as she locks in my gaze and listens to whatever absurd song I may be singing for her.


We poke around a few shops and then settle in at Milk and Honey Cafe for a quick lunch. I eat a cold beet and lemon soup (makes your mouth pucker!) while she nibbles on a slice of watermelon. My grandchildren are watermelon babies this summer! (No, of course it's not real.)


Evening. A very special one! The Madison young family came to town! Big cousin, littlest cousin here to spend a tiny bit of time with Primrose and me.


(hey you!)




(hey you.)


The youngest parents finish their work day and meet us for a munch and a drink at the Publican Anker. I do so love the occasions where we can all be together!


(Ice cream treat: at Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, of course. Snowdrop and I make up a special song for the occasion!)


Night. In my little apartment over the L train station, I think about how quiet it is now. It took my less than an hour to get used to the train sound. Now I don't even pay attention to it. If you asked me if there was an interruption in the movement of the trains (they typically run every six or seven minutes in each direction) I'd have to admit that I don't know. We really are quite capable of getting used to the strangest things in life!

The moon is hidden. Storm clouds have moved in. Dull roar, loud crash, then silence once more.

We live in such stormy times! But in our little corner, all is blissfully calm tonight. Good night, good night, sleep tight.... and even tighter than that!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Chicago days

Morning Walk

Early in the morning, I leave my Airbnb apartment and walk the mile to the young family's home.

Not too far from where they live, there is a bar that is immensely popular at night. I'm told that the reason for its cool status is that it appears regularly in a TV show. People are drawn to see the real deal. Maybe to get a beer, maybe to feel for a moment that they're part of the story.

Next to the bar, there is a house and as best as I can figure out, at least two, possibly three guys, all right about my age, live there. I see them every time I walk to be with Primrose, because at least one of them is always leaning on the gate, chatting to those who pass by. All day long, people stop to talk.


There is something very old fashioned and old world about this. I keep telling myself that one of these days I'll have to stop and find out more about these irrepressibly friendly people. But not today. Today, I don't want to be late for my early morning date with Primrose.

How Quickly They Grow

It seems I was just here with the little one! Not even four weeks have passed since my last Chicago adventure. But of course, Primrose was then four month old, whereas now, she is just about five.


She is at that point where you half think she is ready to get up and walk away. After all, she can keep herself straight and upright! (I catch myself doing that thing you do with babies: always looking ahead toward the next stage.)


Primrose is starting to develop preferences. You can coax, you can shuffle things around and confuse her into thinking she is doing what she wants. She does have opinions though and it's delightful to navigate the day listening to her assertions and proclamations.

(An important desire: "I want to eat my toes!")



It is our habit to go out exploring after her morning nap. As before, she is a spirited and eager adventurer.


Our first destination is a place called Local Foods. It's tucked inbetween warehouses, foundries and metal shops -- not exactly on anyone's strolling path. But it's worth the rather uninteresting walk. Just about all the foods are sourced from the Midwest. Not a few number of items are, of course, from Wisconsin.

It's a lovely and colorful place to explore. I stock up on foods for my Chicago suppers! Primrose? Well, she likes my enthusiasm. Here I am in the midst of a rhapsody about peaches.


May I have an ice cream cone?

Our next adventuring destination is in a completely opposite direction. It's a bit of a walk, but we're game! I've heard a lot of good things about it: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream.

Once there, it takes me forever to pick a flavor. I sample at least three or four and finally settle on goat cheese and cherries. (The flavors are very creative!)

And I also take the time to entertain myself. I have found that with babies, you really do have to think of ways to make the whole enterprise of caring for them fun for you (as well as for the little one). When they're older, drawing with them, telling stories, reading books, building spaceships or castles  -- all these things are such great fun! But an infant is a bigger challenge.

Going for walks? For me, that's definitely fun! And additionally -- I love including the young one in my camera play. Taking an interesting picture of a baby is hard. But the whole process can be very very entertaining. Here are four pictures in a series of selfies (timed release) that I would call "I want that ice cream cone!"





"Looks so delicious..."


"Well, at least I get to touch it."


Evening in Chicago

The young couple is putting in a longer day at work. My sweet babe is in that mood that every parent must love: call it the "I am not going to be easily satisfied" evening state of mind. We run through her usual beloved toys quickly. No? Not tonight? How about sunglasses?!


But a grandma worth her beans always has tricks up her sleeve. Primrose, would you like to go to the park?

Primrose finds her chill moment in the nearby park swings. Snowdrop, the swinger of all swingers, would have been impressed!


And now her parents are here and all is right with the world!


Check mail, hear her stories, take charge of her care. Some time they'll eat dinner, but it wont be for awhile.


I'll see you tomorrow, Primrose!

The evening sun descends. neighbors sit on a bench by their homes talking, sipping wine. Someone rides a skateboard.


The last days of summer in the city. Brittle leaves, fading gardens, warm evenings, lovely memories.