Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Kind Of Town ..... (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)


Ever since Mama Kat published this week's writing prompts and I ended up with prompt #1, "a vacation to remember," I had planned on writing about New York City and how it wasn't until I started taking my daughter there that I discovered key things I had missed when I lived there (Harlem, Chinatown, Little Italy). Although those are great memories, it occurred to me that although I talk about New York City fairly regularly, I have never shared about the time I took Kris and Marlena to Chicago.

I have a bunch of nieces and nephews. I had a goal of taking each one on a trip when they graduated from high school. Luckily for Kris, she is the oldest, because she is the only niece I have been able to afford to treat to a senior trip. If there could only be one, though, I am glad it was this one.

We took our trip to Chicago in April of Kris's senior year. Chicago was the choice because Kris had always wanted to see the Art Institute of Chicago. When my sister-in-law dropped Kris and her friend Marlena off at my house, Marie told me that she had had to loan one of the girls tennis shoes because she had shown up in flip flops. For Chicago. In April. This was going to be interesting!

I really don't know how the travel gods smiled on me this much, but when we walked in to our hotel just off Michigan Avenue, there was a sign announcing that I was "guest of the day" and we got a bit of fanfare. US! We didn't waste time getting to the Hancock Building, to The Cheesecake Factory, and planning out the rest of our itinerary.

We fit in a lot of things: the play Proof, shopping (Tiffany, the rest of the Magnificent Mile), the musical Kiss Me Kate, the Art Institute, ice skating at the Navy Pier, figuring out mass transit, and plenty of good eating.

Why was this trip so memorable (besides the quality time with a cherished niece and her friend)?

- Having the privilege of taking Kris on her first plane ride.

-Hearing the girls complain every time we came back to our hotel room that the maid had cleaned it up! I, of course, was on cloud nine.

-Feeling like we had just scratched the surface at the Art Institute (with an Ansel Adams exhibit underway) when the girls were ready to go. I could have stayed for days.

-In a bus, going past a group of demonstrators and hearing Kris pipe up, in her south Georgia drawl, "Well it sure is somethin' to see people utilizing their right to free expression!"

-the trip-long hunt for a navel ring (NO! NOT FOR ME!). The directions given by a guy at the Gap that would have sent us to a part of town we didn't know. Me on the phone to them, getting directions and asking "I'm a soccer mom with two teenagers - will I be safe there?" Kris calling her dad (rest in peace, Chuck) all the way back in Georgia, a call resulting in a decision not to be quite that adventurous (a navel ring was found before the trip was over)

-some very kind benevolent patron noticing two young girls checking out the orchestra pit at Kiss Me Kate and making sure they got to sit in the front row for the rest of the show

-the fact that although we ate some nice food, the best meal I remember was the gyros we had in the food court at the Navy Pier - the correlation between dining price and priceless experience is not always a direct one

Part of the reason I felt so strongly about taking Kris to Chicago was that I wanted her to have experienced a big city before she made whatever life choices lay ahead of her. She is a mom now, with two young kids of her own. I hope when the challenges of parenting young kids get to be tiring, she is able to go back in her mind to the Navy Pier, watching a ferris wheel cycle through a frigid April sky.

And, in the words of Six Word Memoirist "dmac9000" that she knows:

There is Chicago. There's always Chicago. 

(Source: Chicago Tourism)


Nicole said...

What a wonderful memory for her and for you. I love that you were trying to provide her with an experience that would open her up to life beyond where she's lived so she know's whats out there. So many people never leave their hometowns and explore the world - thanks for sharing!

Patricia said...

My first thought is, very very cool. Chicago is my home town kinda sorta, and I know what a fabulous place it is. My second thought is, why haven't I taken my girls there yet???? Thanks for the seed - I will water it and hope that it sprouts!

Ginny Marie said...

It sounds like you had such a great experience in Chicago! :) I love the Art Institute -- I want to take my daughters there, but they are only 3 and 6, so I'm going to wait a couple more years. We live in the suburbs, and of course it's the usual story...we rarely take advantage of all the things Chicago has to offer!

Carrie said...

I'd love to see Chicago someday. Sounds like a really great trip. You sound like THE coolest aunt :)

Visiting from Mama Kat's

Miri said...

That sounds like a great trip. What a wonderful time for the two of you together.

Visiting from Mama Kat's!

Marlena said...

Ok, well that certainly just brought tears to my eyes! I could never begin to thank you enough for giving us that opportunity at 17!! I am truly grateful. It was an amazing experience, one that I will never forget. I look forward to sharing this story with my kids one day!

Kris said...

Well, this is the Kris from the story. I have been sick this week, with two sick children on top of that. Reading this could not have come at a better time. Like Marlena, this does bring tears to my eyes. You are right Aunt Paula even on weeks like this. . .

I WILL ALWAY have Chicago!

And the best Aunt God ever made. I love you.

Jessica said...

What a wonderful vacation for you to take your niece on. I bet she loved it and still remembers that trip.