Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Life lessons from Chicago

When my parents got married, they decided to high tail it out of Chicago and move west. They first went to Arizona. I'm glad they didn't stay there, because I would probably have even more wrinkles than I already have. They kept on going and settled in Oakland where my brother was born. Then my Dad took a job in Sacramento and they bought their first house when my sister was a baby. They eventually had three more of us rug rats children. Arden Park was a lovely place to be born. Losing mittens in Sacramento meant you had lost a mitten, silly kitten, not that your hand would fall off from frostbite. I'm glad my parents heeded the call to Head West, young couple.

But with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins still back in Chicago, that meant family trips to the Windy City. When I was a baby, the family would take the train. My siblings have fond memories of the sleeper cars, dining cars and the domed observation deck at night. In time, the trips were on airplanes, and those are the only ones I remember. It was fun having family far away which involved big trips to visit them. We got to see all the "Chicago relatives" all at once and my parents didn't have to play favorites of who to visit when.

This past work weekend in Chicago brought back lots of memories for me. It was fr---eee---zing cold. I have to hand it to my Mom for her career girl days working downtown. Bundling up in all those clothes, taking the street car and the L to get downtown - she did it for years. I still cannot picture her in fur lined boots and a hat smashing her beautiful hair, but I'm sure she somehow stayed warm and fashionable. She married in her mid-twenties and I think moving away from all that hairdo smashing weather was a good idea for her!

Things I learned in Chicago

  • I learned at my rich Grandma's house that you grab the utensils from the outside of the place setting and work your way in. I learned about separate water glasses and how to eat a soft boiled egg from an egg cup and how to play Robber Rummy. I learned how fun it is to play in an attic and a basement, that people don't need fences around their houses and how to work a wringer washing machine.
  • I learned at my not very rich Grandma's house how to buzz in at an apartment, that a small place can be just as clean and appealing as a house with an attic and basement and that a twinkly genuine smile is the best thing to put on each morning. I learned where my Mom got her sweetness from.
  • Chicago taught me my first lessons about crime. I was in awe as a young child that the restrooms at Marshall Fields had cages on top of the stalls so people would not reach over and steal your purse. It had never occurred to me that someone would do that. The amount of locks on my Grandparent's doors was also a novel experience to a born and bred Arden Park girl. We didn't ever lock our doors and didn't know where the house keys were. Chicago was another world.
  • I learned from my step grandfather what hit-in-the-gut, jaw dropping prejudice sounds like. I have spent my life trying to undo the ugly things said by people like that. I know it's impossible, but I still try.
  • In Chicago I learned what real heat and humidity feels like. I woke up one night and asked my Mom what happened to the air? She said to just go to the window and try to breathe. Then I realized what Sacramentans mean when we say "But it's a dry heat."
  • I remember riding the L and passing right by people's apartment buildings as their curtains blew from our train car whizzing by. I knew then that I was a Have and those people were the Have Nots. I wished I could move their apartments just a few feet back so their curtains wouldn't blow as I traveled by in the train with my sweet mother and grandmother.
Proper footwear is a must
About 16 degrees at this point.

Snow angels are worth getting a devil of a cold backside.

Me and The Bean

Public Art is so wonderful. Because Earth without art is just Eh.