Friday, June 28, 2013

The Preliminaries: Chicago

Saturday morning, while Jacob and Deborah slept, my folks and I went off to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. When I go to Chicago, there are several things that give me peace—I did most of them this trip, although that was not its purpose. Walking around the Botanic Gardens and listening to my parents is one of those things. They were neither of them in good moods. Mom had packed too much into the day; Dad was antsy because of the juxtaposition of leaving and company. But the sight of water lilies, the flowers in full bloom, the sound of birds—by the walk’s end, we were all calm. That afternoon, mom took Jacob to the ballgame, and Dad went to work. Deborah and I talked with Auntie Marcia and Uncle Larry, hearing tales of their trip to South Africa. That took the afternoon, after which we scattered: Marcia and Larry went to see family, Deborah went off to see a friend. I went to get Amy from the airport, which I accomplished successfully—it felt like no mean feat: an unfamiliar car, unfamiliar roads, and an unfamiliar airport. Good practice for the next day and the unveiling. The day began with my parents’ leaving for China—and my dad misdialing the phone and managing to dial 911 accidentally. Don’t ask. It just happened and a policewoman with a most distinctive Midwestern accent showed up to check us out—and wake us all up. But the main event of the day was the unveiling, which took place in a cemetery in one of the Western suburbs. I’d never been there. But all of my mom’s extended family is there: Bubbie and Poppy, Aunt Ruth, Aunt Lil and Uncle Maury, Aunt Loretta and Uncle Bernie. In some odd way, I felt I really was visiting family, not graves, but people. The unveiling was fine, but I was simply glad to remember these people who were so important in making me the Jew that I am. The Seders, the break-the-fasts, the Rosh Hashanah dinners. All with family, but with the sense of doing something Jewish that mattered. The men discussing politics; the kids (me and my sibs) wandering in and out. The bedroom upstairs with all the books; the small TV downstairs with its exotic programs (exotic for someone with no TV at all). I visited Aunt Lil and told her that her namesake is a cheerful and bubbly girl—so different from the woman whose middle name could have been Eeyore. But she loved children and watching joy gave her joy, so I think of her when Lily plays. We went to Gloria’s for brunch—the standard fare, which means delicious: lox and bagels, plenty of fixings, rugelach and coffee, and good conversation with people I hadn’t seen in too long: Nancy, Gloria, Ronna, the Blaser kids and Rebecca, Nathan and Judy, Sol and Seema. Deborah was pleased that she is now old enough to help clean up instead of being shooed out of the kitchen; I was pleased that I didn’t have to clean up until the end, when I was done schmoozing. Deborah and I gave Bernie’s brother and his wife a ride home and headed up LSD—not at any great speed, but it didn’t matter, we were in no hurry and the lake was on our right; Gold Coast on our left. I love Chicago. On Monday, Deborah, Amy, Jake, and I went into the Chicago to see the Bean and the Art Institute. I like the Bean fine—it’s such a shiny piece of sculpture and it’s fun to watch people play with it—but I really like the facing face fountains on Michigan Avenue: two monolithic blocks on which changing heads representing the faces of Chicago smile, yawn, wink, and laugh at either other. Oh, and spout water too. The space between was full of water and children splashing, falling, laughing, and running. Jake played in it for a solid half hour, at which point we decided we’d better get lunch. And see the Art Institute. Again, one of my touchstones: the Chagall windows, the Impressionists. That was all we had time for: Jake ran out of steam and began to fret and we decided to keep the mood light and head out to dinner with Jackie. Which was delicious. And that was more or less it: Amy and Jake took off for the train station; Deborah and a friend dropped me at the airport, where I waited for several hours for a flight delayed due to runway construction. Finally made it to SF at 1:30 and Dave fought a terrible traffic jam to pick me up—what airport has a traffic jam in the middle of the night? Got home and to bed by 3 AM—not a good sign for the next day. And speaking of bad signs—this was a practice trip of sorts. I got to figure out google-voice, which had some glitches (and then it turns out I can’t use it in Israel at all). And my VISA card was put on hold—I had used it online to pay a yearly bill generated out of San Francisco. Very strange—haven’t they heard of the internet? But it was fixed relatively painlessly and I hope there are no further problems—I’m just not paying anything that is where I am.

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