Thursday, September 28, 2006

Toddlin' town

WHAT happened to this past week? I just put it down for ONE MINUTE, I swear... it was RIGHT THERE and now it's GONE. YES, I already looked there!! It's gone, I tell you, GONE! (Stifled sob... )

Know the feeling? I swear to you that I've accomplished absolutely nothing this week, although I have made some rather impressive headway toward catching up on lost sleep. (Wish I could bank the stuff.) The sleep has been good; I won't lie to you. But the to-do list mocks me and multiplies when I'm not looking. Tomorrow.

Tonight, I'm going to try to pin down some Chi-town memories before any more of them go fluttering off into the mist. (Side note to Those Who Were There: I am under no obligation to be brutally honest, much less self-incriminating. Get yer own damn blogs!)

First, the travel. Was nice and quiet, because I was by myself. Didn't even mind leaving the house before the sun rose, because my thoughtful husband had arranged limo transportation for me beforehand. Wasn't thrilled about glugging two bottles of perfectly good agua before going through security, but I had been warned. ("You're a FOOL!" actually proved correct this time around.)

A window seat. A small stack of books. Silent seatmates. Heaven. Some time after the cheerful anouncement that we'd be landing a little ahead of schedule, we were informed that there was a Spot of Weather Ahead. So, we circled round and round and round and round, till eventually my neighbor started getting antsy, and chatty.

He was, he told me in heavily accented English, from South Korea, but was currently an international student in Lubbock, Texas. Well, I just wanted to pat him on the shoulder right then and there and apologize for his misfortune, but he was much more focused on what awaited him in Chicago: an old girlfriend. They'd met seven years ago, and although I nodded politely at appropriate intervals, I didn't catch all of what followed, except that she was his first kiss and they'd subsequently lost touch. Now she was in Illinois, and they were reuniting. At one point, I thought he might cry.

After a LOT of lovesick-puppy dog monologue about the girlfriend, he asked me why I was going to Chicago. I explained that it was my mother's sixtieth birthday, and we were gathering to celebrate in the city of her birth. "Oh, yes," he said excitedly, "sixty is a special birthday in Korea." He explained that each year is marked by an animal (picture the paper placemats in the last Chinese restaurant you visited). It's a 12-animal cycle, so when you reach 60, you've completed five cycles.

"Wow!" I said. "I can't wait to tell my mom! She was born in 1946, so I wonder what her animal is?"

His face immediately clouded. "Oh, no," he said, "she's not 60 anymore. She's 61." Apparently, Koreans begin counting age before birth, so you're already one year old when you take your first breath. Sorry, Mom.

(By the way, I just found this handy-dandy guide to the zodiac animals, and, lo and behold: my mother and I are both dogs. I'm sure my siblings will find this incredibly amusing... at least, until Mary realizes that she's a dog, too. Arf!)

The conversation kind of dwindled after that, which was fine, because pretty soon we were landing in Chicago. The birthday girl, cheerfully deluded that she was still 59, was there to greet me, along with the news that my grandmother's flight was running late. Really late, due to that Spot of Weather. After a momentary regret for her inconvenience, we were off and running to baggage claim with a plan to grab my bag, snag sibs Mary and John, make haste to our waiting rental car and commence to eating.

All went relatively smoothly, once we all recovered from the shock that we would be riding in a tank for the duration of the weekend. Lord, this thing was huge. When we opened the trunk, Mom exclaimed, "You could fit a coffin in there!" I didn't argue with her, but I secretly prayed that we wouldn't have cause to test the theory.

And then, we were off. But slowly, as I gingerly navigated out of the parking lot and into the maze of expressways. We were more than halfway to Moondance, an old favorite out in the western suburbs, when Mary asked the sensible question, "Do you think we should make sure that Nanny's plane is still running late?" Mom was positive she couldn't be anywhere close to O'Hare, but a lengthy automated call to the airline confirmed, of course, that the flight would be arriving soon.

It was a tough call. Our destination was nearly in sight. Our stomachs were grumbling, our throats parched. And yet, our 88-year-old matriarch had no cell phone and decades of experience standing miserably in crowded airports looking for familiar faces. Sigh.

So, back to the airport, where a grateful Nanny was retrieved, unaware that she'd nearly been one-upped by a sandwich. Back to the car, back to the expressways, back to the western 'burbs. And finally, Moondance. I couldn't believe it when we walked through the door: not a thing was changed. During the five years Trey and I lived in Chicagoland, nary a week went by without a Moondance meal. Now I needed to make up for lost time: tortilla soup, check. Chicken salad, mais oui. Belgian waffle? What the heck?

Bellies full, we shuffled back to the car, which now seemed much smaller, and took a quick tour of Trey's and my old Elmhurst neighborhood. What used to be row after row of little aluminum-clad houses built on GI bills were now littered with brick mini-McMansions. Bleah. Still, I had a pang as we drove by the neighborhood elementary school: I could come back to this.

Finally, the city, with that gorgeous skyline shrouded in mist, appeared on the horizon. Finally, after several navigational errors, I found our hotel. Finally, we were checked in and escorted to our adoining rooms. Sleep-deprived siblings dropped like flies onto the beckoning beds. On cue, mother and grandmother began bickering, loudly and persistently, in the next room. "Please, please, be quiet!" we begged. "We're exhausted!" And then, "For the love of God, would someone make them stop?" Also, "SLEEP! All we want is sleep!" And once, "I hate our neighbors."

We must have gotten a good three minutes of shut-eye before it was time to pile back into the car, this time for the northern 'burbs. I was steering the tank through driving rain on Lake Shore Drive when the car began making a strange noise. Oddly, it sounded like a siren coming from the engine. We couldn't make heads or tails of it. One of Trey's favorite phrases, "trippin' on L.S.D.," which sounds illicit but it's really not, came to mind.

Only later did we realize: tornado warning. That Spot of Weather had, well, gotten squirrelly. Evidence of tornadic activity was everywhere, yet we drove on, convinced somehow that the car was possessed by demons.

At last, Skokie. Skokie Skokie Skokie. Funny, huh? Not only do I love saying it, I love visiting it, because it's the home of the Schobers. The Skokie Schobers. (Am now cracking myself up, which means I should probably crawl into bed.)

The Skokie Schobers are Milt and Arline, my grandmother's brother and sister-in-law, and their grown children, Betty Ann, Trudy and Allan. Allan and his family live in Amsterdam now, but the rest of the clan was present and accounted for, and only too happy to fete my delighted mother.

Five minutes with this group, and you completely understand why they're Mom's favorite people in the entire world. When Sarah and I were little, visiting Skokie was like gaining passage to exotica. The Schobers traveled the globe, had impossibly cool jobs, were friendly yet sophisticated, had a finished basement chock-full of treasures and all shared one bathroom. (This last bit still amazes me because yes, they still do.)

Ah, Sarah, who at this point in the story is stuck in transit hell, poor thing. Truthfully, I could wax rhapsodic about the Schobers for days, and maybe even tell you how Uncle Milt almost landed me on the Oprah show once. But after a kabillion keystrokes, I'm still describing the first TWELVE hours of our long weekend... and I just know that Jen is going to bust me on the timestamp for this entry. So off to bed I go, with full intentions to chronicle Toddlin' town, Part Two, before the weekend ends. Pictures, too! Stay tuned.

Love for now,

P.S. The timestamp is acting squirrelly, too... it's actually 3 a.m. on Saturday morning. Or is it? Hmmm.


Blogger Sugar Photography said...

I timestamps ever lie? ;)

such fun-can't wait for the rest of the adventure!

6:50 AM  

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