Tag Archives: Chicago

The 52 Lists Project #22

Standard

may2016 340

List your favorite places you have been:

  • Chicago, Illinois. This may be the largest city I’ve ever visited, and I love it: the architecture, the art, the shops and restaurants, and the many things to see and do. I am interested in its history, and our family history there. My grandmother was raised in Chicago. She learned to drive on the old rail tracks. Her mother, as a small child, was one of the survivors of the Iroquois Theater fire. Her father predicted, when he saw buildings being erected on what had been a landfill along the shoreline, that the foundation would erode and compromise the structures. Grandma took great pride, at eighty years old, of telling us that her father was correct, and that recent news stories were telling of all the expense of saving the skyscrapers, which were too heavy for the foundation they were built on. I have good memories of visits to Chicago with sisters and daughters and friends, of good meals, sight-seeing in the daytime, and night-life adventures.
  • East Lansing, Michigan. For the beautiful campus that welcomed and sheltered my little family, and for the experience, growth and knowledge I gained there, this place will always be one of my favorites.
  • Northern California. I flew in to San Francisco, stayed in San Jose, and visited Calaveras County. We drove through the mountains one night at sunset, to Lake Tahoe, and returned as the sun was rising the next morning.
  • Grand Turk Island, in the British West Indies. I spent time there on a working vacation as a laborer on an archaeological dig. I traveled alone. It was a lovely place and I learned a great deal about archaeology, the history of the area, and the Taino people. The trip stands as one of the biggest adventures in my life.
  • Kissimmee, Florida. Four of my sisters and I traveled from Michigan to Florida in the winter after my mother’s death. My sister, Nita, came from Texas to join us.  Brenda had arranged for our lodging in a luxurious resort. The weather was heavenly. We talked and laughed and played games. We walked to shop and see the sights. Mostly, though, it was a sharing and healing time for all of us. For that reason alone, it is one of my favorite memories.
  • Beaver Island, Michigan. This was always my favorite place to visit as a child, and the place I always wanted to live. I have to admit that, having lived here now for over thirty years, some of the magic has faded. This can be a lonely and difficult place to be. Winters are hard; mosquitoes are vicious; everything is expensive. Still, sitting on the beach to watch the sun go down over the water, driving through the woods after dark, or coming around that last curve into town – with the view of the lighthouse and the harbor laid out just like a postcard – can always bring the magic back.

Tommy

Standard

Image

When I was a child, an envelope would arrive a few days before my birthday, from my grandparents. It contained a birthday card, of course, but also a long, newsy letter, and usually a gift of money, to enable me to pick out my own present.

For most of my childhood my grandparents were in Chicago on my birthday, both working in the city. But sometimes they were on vacation at that time, here on Beaver Island or elsewhere.  Sometimes they were in good health, other times they had issues. Always, they were busy. My Grandmother had a large family in the city, of brothers and sisters and cousins and all of their children. My grandfather had six grown children scattered around Michigan (one in New Jersey!) and twenty five grandchildren.

Yet, never-failing, that card always arrived in time for my birthday.

My grandson, Tommy, turns eleven tomorrow.

I’ve been carrying his card around for a week.

One day, I had the card, but forgot the address. The next day I addressed the envelope but then left it sitting on the dining room table. Two days I missed the post office. Another two days I ran in for my mail before going to work, but forgot to bring the envelope in to post. Tomorrow I will mail Tommy’s birthday card, without any hope that it will reach him on time.

So, today I’ve been trying to call, so far without success.  To wish Tommy a very happy birthday. To tell him that I love him. And to explain that his card will be late.

This isn’t the first time.

Though I have only five grandchildren, and I know all of their birthdays by heart, I am often late getting cards and letters in the mail.

It has happened often enough that I know the response I’ll get.

First my daughter, Kate, will say, “No problem.” She’ll have some assurance that it will be here in time for the party, which is on the following weekend, or that he has so many cards and gifts to open, better that it come later when he can give it his full attention. She’s very good at it.

Then Tommy. He’ll be happy for the call, glad to talk to his Grandma Cindy, and will mimic his mother’s “No problem.”

He’s a good, kind boy!

He deserves a more thoughtful, punctual grandmother!

Unfortunately, he’s stuck with me.

Which is very fortunate for me; I’m lucky to have this sweet young man for a grandson!

Happy Birthday, Tommy!

Reassessing 2012

Standard

Image

I’m thinking I may have been a bit hard on 2012.

I spoke of bad luck and hard times, and how sadly it fell short of my expectations.

How audacious of me, anyway, to decide that 2012 or, for that matter, any year – a man-made measurement of time – was going to be “my best year yet”.

I spoke it in hopefulness, and in the spirit of manifestation (which sounds, as I write it here, a bit like a plague!). I was opening myself up to wonderful things.

It turns out, I was opening myself up to disappointment.

How could any year compete with the golden years that live in my memories?

Jennifer’s second year:  we tilled up a section at the back of the driveway at the little house near the lake, and planted a tiny garden and she learned the joy of growing things; I took pictures every day of my beautiful daughter…trying on her Daddy’s work boots or in her Halloween costume, with her puppy or her plate of freshly-dug nightcrawlers; I sewed sundresses for her, and made seed mosaics and bead curtains and crocheted slippers; it seems like we walked down to the water every single day…

Katey’s first year: at the townhouse in Lapeer, my perfect little family; two daughters in the bathtub, two daughters getting tucked in at night; with Katey in the stroller, we’d go to the park…Jen would walk ’til she was tired, then she’d stand on the axle and ride along; I learned to cook Chinese food and started taking college courses. My husband would play his guitar in the evenings and my daughters laughed and sang…

That first year here on Beaver Island: the heart-stopping, joyous rush every time I rounded the corner into town and was faced with the harbor view; the seasons, each one a new adventure…When a tree fell in a storm that first winter and crushed our car, my husband and I looked at it, turned to each other, grinned and said – in unison – “Firewood!”

But, you see, I’ve forgotten all the bad parts, of all the good years.

Since my memory is selective, there is no competition.

Held up to my standard of “best year yet,” of course last year fell short.

By any other standard, 2012 was a good year.

In my family, we had weddings and births, new houses and new jobs.

In February, my sisters and I went to Florida together for a wonderful vacation. Three sisters, three nieces and I went to Chicago for a lovely Mother’s Day weekend. Three of my grandchildren and my daughter, Jen, came here for a week-long visit in July. Family and friends came to help me celebrate my birthday in August. Other friends came, through the season.

I quit my job in 2012! I could write a litany of difficulties it has caused in my life, but the bottom-line is, I enjoy what I’m doing and I feel good about it.

I have consistently written and posted these blogs through all of the past year. Knowing my habits, I know better than anyone what a huge accomplishment that is, all by itself. On top of that, it has introduced me to a world of good writers, of old and new friends, of support and love and mutual admiration.

I walked every day in 2012.

I laughed every day in 2012.

Looking at it now (eight days past), 2012 was a very good year.

Generating Our Own Warmth

Standard

Image

I took some photos of skunk cabbage last week.

It’s not the most attractive of plants…and it truly does smell like skunk…but it’s one of the first things to show green up here in northern Michigan, well insulated by the big lake.

Now I hate to say too much, for I’ll surely get it wrong, but there is something about skunk cabbage that is mammal-like, in that it has the ability to generate its own warmth. It wakes up at just about the same time each Spring, whether it is warm or cold. I’ve seen it push up through the deep snow, actually melting the snow in a small circle around itself. I’m pretty sure it is unique in the plant world. It is always a welcome sight, letting us know that better weather is coming.

Last weekend, three nieces, three sisters and I pulled off a similar feat.

We were all, in our own way, dreading this first Mother’s Day without our mother.

My baby sister, Amy, spoke it out loud, and her lovely daughters arranged a trip. They generously invited all of us to join them, and seven of us made the trip. We traveled by train to Chicago, we boarded at 6:45 Friday morning and arrived in the city early in the afternoon. We took taxis when necessary, but were able to walk most places.

We dined, shopped and enjoyed the art and architecture. We played cards and drank martinis together. We talked about ex-husbands, current husbands and future husbands, and the generations fell away in laughter and sharing. We saw a wonderful play.

Mostly we relished the time together. We sent postcards to the brother and sisters who weren’t there, and reminisced about those who would never again be with us. There were moments of melancholia, but many more laughs than tears. We are building a foundation of memories to move forward on. Like the skunk cabbage, we’re creating our own little circle of warmth.

Image

In order of age – as we’ve posed for pictures our entire lives – four sisters: Brenda, Cindy, Robin and Amy.