Oh My Beautiful Hometown – quiet, humble city. Thank You for dressing up for me.
Life, Insights and Observations Through Writing and Art
Snow – Everything about it reminds me of my youth. It reminds me of my parents. And, It reminds me of growing up in South Bend, Indiana. The snow always seemed to be piled high from November through March. Every year. Not just on years that were considered “the year of the polar vortex,” but always. You could count on a beautiful white blanket of snow throughout winter just as sure as you could count on presents under your tree on Christmas morning. The two-way neighborhood roads would turn into single lane paths that you’d wield your car down. Snow piled high on both shoulders along your way.
Maybe this is why I still love the snow so much. It’s beauty takes me back to my childhood. And, to a time when I was living under the same roof with my 4 siblings and my parents. Every year you knew that as the temperatures plummeted, the snow would come. Still, there was always something so pure and magical about looking out at the first snowflakes falling.
Our hearts seem to forever stay childlike in that we will never get over the thrill of going to bed at night when the earth outside our windows is a field of frozen, dormant grass and waking up the next morning to the loveliness of a thick mantle of white snow and frozen tree branches swagged heavily with silvery icicles hanging off each tip. The sun shining a bit brighter because of its reflection off of the bright ground.
South Bend is famously synonymous with two things – Snow & Notre Dame. My parents worked at Notre Dame pretty much all their married lives. Our home was fairly close to the campus. As a teen, my friends and I would ride our bikes across town and spend time tooling around the different quads that made up the campus. This was mainly in the summer when the students were on break. The campus felt quiet then. And Empty. And it felt like ours. It was beautiful, lush with flora and serene. And for the most part, we had it to ourselves from June through August.
On many of those long summer days, we’d pop into my Mom’s office to say hi. We’d visit for a while and talk to her co-workers sitting at their desks, piled high with paperwork, framed pictures of family members, typewriters and coffee cups. On our way back out again, we’d pass up the bank of payphones and we’d stop by the vending machine in the lobby to buy a soda for .50 cents. Then we’d get back on our Schwinn bikes and ride across campus to my Dad’s office and do the same. “Hi Dad! How’s it going?! Do you have a few dollars I could “borrow?”
Summers felt long back then. The days went on forever and the time went by at a snail’s pace. But eventually, the warm days of summer would slowly turn to fall; a favorite season for so many because of the relief that came from cooler temperatures and the beauty of the changing colors all around you. ND Students would return for classes. My siblings and friends and I would go back to school. Before you knew it, the first snow would be at your doorstep, peaceful and white. Filling you with an unexplained inner excitement and youthful joy.
The changing seasons always remind me of my parents. Because of where I grew up, winter and snow remind me of them most. This week here in Chicago, it snowed a little. Just flurries. But, in South Bend? They got loads of it. It made me think of my Mom and Dad. It brought back such sweet memories of youth. It also made me miss my parents – especially my mom, who we lost in February of this year. I miss her so much.
As I watched the weather reports on TV with news of the heavy snow coming down in South Bend, I smiled. Whenever the first snow would come, I’d always call my Mom, “Hey Mom!, it’s snowing!” And then she’d say, “Oh Honey, we are getting so much snow! You should see it!” She knew how much I loved winter. She thought I was nuts. She did not love it as I always have. She saw it as work, like most adults do. She’d call me often about the piles of snow and would tell me how she felt trapped inside. I would just laugh and tell her not to worry – “I’ll come visit you, mom! You don’t have to drive in it!” And, I did.
I’ll always love snow and the sense of renewal and peace that comes along with it. It will always bring back sweet memories of my beloved parents who are now gone. I’ll welcome it every year and be sorry when the last of it melts away. Snow. Such a wonderful part of the winter season! “Hey Mom!… South Bend got a ton of snow this week……”
This past week, while looking out the window at the once again falling snow, I smiled to myself. I Love Snow!! I am always the one talking up it’s finer points and telling everyone within earshot ..“I can’t wait for it to snow.” And, “I hope we get bucket loads of it, this year!!” Those brave and loud statements are usually met with grunts of disapproval and gasps of horror.
Guess what?! It’s winter, people! (Well, at least for a few more weeks.) And when you live in the northern part of the USA, Winter = Snow & Cold. Hurray!
OK, so this year we have been hit hard and have been experiencing an unusually bitter and frigid season. We have been tested to our limits. We have survived the evil Polar Vortex. We have shoveled our way out of mounds and mounds of snow. And, we have been (somewhat) patient through record air traffic cancellations and delays as well as ridiculously long and treacherous commutes to and from work.
Time Out Chicago, (Chicago’s guide to what’s new and next on the city’s arts and culture scene) took to the streets asking the age-old question..”if it’s so bad, why do you stay here??” And the answers that were given not only warmed my heart and reminded me of why I have such a deep love for this great city and would never leave regardless of the severe and somewhat unpredictable seasons, they are something most definitely worth sharing…
16 reasons why we can’t leave Chicago, even after this evil winter.
We’ll admit this winter has made us question why we live in Chicago, but the answers keep us right where we are –
Why do you stay? Tell us in the comments.
16. All the messy toil and sting of the cold season seem to disappear on that one magic day—it usually comes in the second week of March—when the early afternoon clouds part, the sun beats down with intensity you haven’t felt in months and suddenly you’re overdressed. You shed your bulky coat, stuff it in your bag and smile. It’s not quite spring, but the worst of winter is behind you.—Jake Malooley, senior editor
15. You don’t need a car to live here. The CTA is slow, clunky, late and often full of putrid smells, but it will get you where you need to go. Eventually.—Laura Baginski, editor
14. The people are what make Chicago great. Here, I can hang out with good friends all the time and it is easy to do. My friends who move away tell me that maintaining friendships in other not-to-be-named cities is really hard, and building a great network of friends in nearly impossible. In Chicago, I know if I stop at my local favorite bar or restaurant, I will know the bartender (a friend), an old pal will already be at the bar, and another friend will walk in the door a minute later, all unplanned.—Martha Williams, photo editor
13. There’s a lot of talk in the theater and comedy scenes here about “paying your dues”—appropriate for this union town. And this brutal winter especially has felt like dues paid. But paying dues pays off, whether it’s getting in on the ground floor with future comedy legends, or reaping the riches of Chicago in summer. The work we have to put in makes the rewards all the sweeter.—Kris Vire, associate editor, Theater, Comedy, LGBT
12. Because the beach is 15 minutes from pretty much anywhere you are in the city.—Erin Delahanty, senior digital marketing manager
11. The location. Being located in the Midwest means that I can hop on a plane and in about two hours be in New York, New Orleans, New England, D.C., and other spots my friends and family live. Plus, being driving distance from Milwaukee, Madison, Michigan, Indy, Louisville and other places means getting away for the weekend is super easy.—Amy Cavanaugh, Food & Drink editor
10. In some ways I think the winter slog makes us better appreciate Chicago’s good points, in a self-reinforcing fashion: If we’re willing to put up with this bullshit weather, this city must be pretty damn great.—KV
9. The 4am bars. And the White Sox.—Jessica Johnson, senior online producer
8. It’s a city filled with driven, motivated people who also happen to (mostly) be friendly Midwesterners happy to give you directions when you’re lost.—ED
7. Chicago is still reasonably affordable. New York magazine recently published a feature laying out what its city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, can possibly do to make NYC affordable for the middle class. Here in Chicago, we don’t have the same dire need to write those pieces. Not quite yet, anyway. That could change given Mayor Emanuel’s fixation on making Chicago what he loves to call a “world-class city.” Our city is world-class, we don’t need the sky-high rent to prove it.—JM
6. I can live alongside a massive body of water in a major metropolitan area—without paying a fortune.—Brent DiCrescenzo, managing editor
5. Chicago is now the place to set shoot your new TV show (Chicago PD, Crisis, Mind Games, Sirens, plus less-new shows like Chicago Fire, Shameless and the new season of Orange Is the New Black).—JJ
4. The beer. Confession: I hardly ever drank beer before moving to Chicago three and a half years ago. I’ve always been foremost a cocktail girl, but the vast number of breweries here and the availability of great beer has opened my eyes to all of the different styles available. I still have a ton to learn (and drink), but the beer scene has been one of the most exciting parts of living in Chicago.—AC
3. Every musical act in the world seems to play here, at some point. Sometimes it feels like every single last one of them is here in June, July and August alone.—BD
2. Chicago has all of the cultural richness of a major metropolitan city, but is very livable. You can buy property or find a cheap apartment fairly easily, and live off very little if you need to. It was the perfect city for me when I was a broke college student, and it is still the perfect city for me as a first-time homeowner.—MW
1. The civic pride here is real. People here love to talk up their city, both the good and the bad (and then defend the hell out it when a non-Chicagoan dares to say something negative about the city). When I travel and people ask me where I’m from, I’m so proud to say I’m from Chicago.—LB
Two weeks ago I retired! Which I will blog about at some point!! Week one of retirement – I went on a quick trip to San Fransisco with Clark. It was Lovely!! But that trip is a story for another time.
Week two of retirement –
It’s a little bit after the noon hour. I’m standing in the large, abandoned foyer of the movie theater. Across the large room from me I see a young girl leaning against a counter. She is standing behind the candy case. It is filled with perfectly lined up rows of Junior mints, Dots, M&M’s. But nobody is buying anything. There is nobody at the counter. She looks bored. She walks out from behind her station and wanders over in the direction of an elderly man and strikes up a conversation. He’s sitting – perched up high on a stool. He collects the tickets of the patrons coming to see a movie. He mechanically holds out his hand to collect their tickets, rips them in half and drops his half into a tall box with a slit on top. He tells the patrons which direction to go in. ….3rd theater to your right….
I look back towards the large glass pane window in the front of the vast foyer. I see the ticket booth. There’s a boy in it selling tickets to patrons as they walk in. But there are no patrons right now. It’s like a ghost town. He’s playing on his phone. When I bought my ticket from him he looked happy to see someone. He told me I smelled good. Whattt? Am I wearing too much floral lotion?? I automatically sniff my sleeve. I can’t smell anything. I adjust my fancy scarf Im wearing (Sofia Loren Style!!) and smile at him. I take the tickets.
I’m waiting for Lauren. A few minutes earlier I had been driving through a blizzard to get here. It has been an unusually blustery winter. We’ve been invaded by the Polar Vortex! We’ve literally had mounds and mounds of snow fall on our city since January 1st. It’s been both wonderful and paralyzing. Clark grumbles about it each day. But I have been enjoying it immensely!! I get to stay home! Or go to the movies in the middle of the day!! I’m retired!! This Polar Vortex that has invaded our fair city looks gorgeous from inside my family room – with a blazing fire in the fireplace – looking out. I Love Winter!!
Back in the theater foyer, I look out through the window again and see Lauren’s white jeep pulling up. She parks, gets out and makes her way across the snowy, windy parking lot. She looks like an Eskimo. She’s wearing her long puffy coat. Hood pulled up over her head. She’s walking quickly ~ trying to get in from the freezing cold. She opens the heavy door and comes into the warm, abandoned foyer and smiles brightly at me. I LOVE this girl!! She is always up for meeting me ~ in the middle of the day or any other time I call.
We say our hello’s, hug and make our way towards the man on the stool. He holds his hand out to take our tickets. …riiipppppp…“First theater on your right.” We walk in the direction he pointed us in and through the door. In front of us, walking down the narrow, dimly lit hallway, are two elderly women. One is walking with a cane. The other is holding an array of theater snacks and a huge tub of popcorn. There is a plastic grocery bag hanging heavily from one of her arms. They turn and look at us walking up behind them and move to the side. The lady with the cane tells us to pass by because it will take them a while. They are moving slowly. So we do.
We get to the end of the dark hallway and turn the corner to the seats. There are only two other couples in the room. Both white haired and elderly. One is way down in the front row. The other couple is near the front on an end.
We have the theater to ourselves! We choose seats somewhere in the middle – about halfway up. After getting settled, I look up and see that the two elderly ladies have made their way to the turn. They slowly start to climb up the stairs. We can hear their overly loud whispering. “Where do you want to sit??” I’m thinking to myself.. sit right there!! They keep climbing. It’s exhausting watching them struggle with their candy and large, awkward tub of popcorn (which is spilling with each step they take) and grocery bag and cane. They make their way to the end of our aisle, look at Lauren and I and whisper loudly to each other that they want their own row. They go up one more row. The entire theater is empty and they decide to sit in the two seats directly behind us!???? Oh Brotherrr!
It takes them a while to get settled in. It’s like having two children sitting behind us. Our seats are getting knocked as they struggle with their coats and goodies. I give Lauren the sideways glance and roll my eyes. There is a loud crinkling of bags as they divvy up the goodies. This goes on for a while and actually, throughout the movie. I can hear the hissing sound and “pop” as they open up their cans of soda that they’ve confiscated in with them in the grocery bag. I can hear them eating their popcorn. crunch crunch crunch…
Well, I was not going to let this invasion of privacy interfere with my good mood! I was retired! I was out in the middle of the day. In a blinding snowstorm at the movies! With my beautiful daughter in law!!
“cough cough cough..” Somebody was coughing and sneezing in the theater!! I scooched down in my seat and pulled the fancy scarf I was wearing up a little closer around my nose and mouth. I didn’t want to get sick!
The previews start. We are shown several clips from upcoming movies. One was a –Disney Nature- movie about bears. Our elderly neighbors decided then and there that they would go see that next. They whispered loudly to each other that they liked bears. And those bears looked friendly to them!
And so it went. Loud whispered commentary. And not just from our neighbors. From all three couples in the theater. It wouldn’t have mattered where we sat. During a scene where they showed an empty boat we could hear the man near the front row… “That man musta’ drowned….” During the scenes where harsh language was used we could hear the white-haired lady half a theater away from us gasp loudly.. “Oh dear..” When something humorous happened on-screen, there was loud, robust laughter from the man sitting with the same white-haired lady that would gasp each time there was swearing.
“cough cough cough” The coughing continued. As did the crinkling every time our elderly neighbor reached into her bag to get more candy.
At first, Lauren and I looked at each other, silently chuckled and smiled. And then, we slowly grew oblivious to the sounds around us. We were quickly engrossed in the performances on the big screen in front of us. For two hours we barely stirred. And neither did our elderly neighbors. The movie was amazing. It was wonderful. What a great way to spend a snowy, cold winter day.
As the credits started to roll, I looked around to the other patrons in the theater. They were all recapping what they had just seen. They had enjoyed it as much as we had. I smiled to myself and thought I can only hope that one day, when I am elderly and things tend to take more time and effort, that I find myself in the middle of an empty movie theater with one of my bff’s. Whispering overly loud. Sneaking in our own beverages of choice. Spending a few hours together on a snowy afternoon ~ at the movies.
It’s January in Chicago and Guess who’s getting SNOW!! That’s right, people, it’s snowing! Not just a little flake here and there. It’s coming down in buckets. Loads of it. Really… it’s like a blizzard.
Hubs likes a nice, clean, snow free driveway. Here he is battling the snow. I think he is making progress!
He worked for hours on that bugger. It’s Sunday. And beside the fact that he is determined to keep his driveway flake-free – he is headstrong to make it to church.
Here he is making his way through the frozen tundra. “Onward Christian Soldiersssssss!!!”
Oopsieee….. The lovely winter-esque conditions proved to be too much for him. Back in 5 minutes….
My sweet son, BruceRobt, is working the Customer Service desk at O’Hare International Airport today!! There are a lot of disgruntled, stranded passengers there. In fact, they’ve been there for days trying to make their way to their destinations. The airport is basically shutdown. He has been tossed into the Lion’s Den. Calm Down People!!
What’s so lovely about the sun and warmth when you can be experiencing a lovely winter!!
Brian, my youngest son – Also very sweet, with a lot of independence and adventure running through his blood – has been trying for days to get to back to school. He is studying in California this term. It’s been very exciting around here the last couple of days!! Flights booked, flights cancelled. Packing and unpacking. And then repacking, again. Brian’s Bro, BruceRobt – (the one fighting off the angry, irate customers at O’Hare)…phoned and told Brian to pack a carry-on only. There will be no guarantees that luggage will get to their final destinations. Not with these wicked conditions controlling our every move!! Ok! I think we have this covered. We just need to fit all of this….
into a small-ish bag. On it!
All in all… I think it is going to be a lovely wintery week!
Oh, I know, on the outside I am cool as a cucumber. Patient and serene and grateful for The Beauty that IS WINTER. But inside, I feel a bit like this…
It’s been a little over a week since I’ve been sprung from my cell and allowed to once again be outdoors and among people. I can enjoy the sunshine! I can now start enjoying spring! Except ~ spring is hiding. It snowed the other day. And then we had a monsoon for about a week. Then more snow.
I’ve noticed that the bad weather has affected people’s moods. They walk around complaining. They walk around with a look of aggravation and disappointment on their faces as if they had never seen a bad spring before. It makes me wonder how their dispositions would be if they had just spent the past 2 weeks in prison, like Moi! But I digress….
I didn’t care! I was free! I was going to go out and enjoy my freedom! I talked Clark into going to the store and looking at some new patio furniture. He reluctantly agreed. So we grabbed our winter coats and hats and an umbrella for good measure and off we went!!
We pulled into the parking lot of the local patio furniture store. It looked abandoned. Where was everyone? Didn’t they know it was spring? We got a good parking space almost in the first spot of the row! I took this as a good sign. Yes, this was a good way to start my freedom! If I closed my eyes and blocked out the fact that the snow was coming down in mid April, I could almost visualize myself sitting on my back porch on a new patio chair. Feet propped up on an ottoman. Waving to the neighbors!! Maybe even with a fruity summer drink in my hand.
We walked in and headed toward our destination. Patio conversation groups. From across the showroom floor, there was one that immediately caught my eye. We walked over to it. It was perfect. We tested it out and liked that it felt sturdy. Clark was surprised at how quickly I picked one out. Typically when making a big purchase, it takes me a long time to research. I want the best deal! We were in and out fast. The new set would be delivered to our home the next week Hurray!
OK, confession time. I had been secretly looking online at new sets for the past couple of months. I had actually been doing a lot of online shopping while going through treatments and in isolation. It was a great way to pass the time! I had gotten used to weekly deliveries. My ears became in-tuned to the UPS and FED EX truck barreling down the street. From my bedroom, I could hear the sounds of the large truck rounding the corner near my house. The sound of squeaking breaks and a large vehicle coming to a stop in front of my house was like music to my ears.
I’d wait for the doorbell to ring and moments later the engine of the truck would spark back to life and away it would go. The delivery man was on to his next destination. I was on my way down the stairs to open the front door. I had the orchestration down beautifully!! I’d open the door and drag in whatever new parcel was left for that day. Joy!
The day the Patio set came was a particularly frigid spring day. It was a Saturday and Bruce was home. We opened the large box and there inside was our new set. In about fifty pieces. Hmmm. OK, an afternoon project! This was going to require tools. And patience.
We sat in our garage to put it together that day, well, because it was snowing outside. It took most of the afternoon. Clark and I work together like a well oiled machine. He points to tools. I bring them to him and every once in a while tell him what a fab job he’s doing. He likes to put on a good show. Straining loudly when a particular part of the assembly is challenging. I encourage him and tell him he is brilliant!
All in all we enjoy being together and working on projects. He always takes the part of project manager. I am the lovely assistant. This day was no different. The set came together nicely. Success! No extra parts. Now we just need some spring weather.
As I sit in my kitchen this morning looking out the window at the wintery~spring weather, I wonder how much longer these unseasonably cold tempts are going to last. In the grand scheme of things, it really does not matter. Spring will come. Warm tempts will follow. My new patio set will eventually make its way from our garage to its new home on the back porch.
Mother Nature has a way of keeping us all on our toes ~ of letting us know who the boss is. And I, for one, would have it no other way. Patience is a virtue. The new season always eventually rolls around the corner. That’s the beauty of living in a part of the country where the seasons change. Just when you think you can’t take anymore, you are blessed with a spring morning that you are sure is the most gorgeous one you’ve ever seen.
And before you know it, everyone will be walking around with looks of aggravation on their faces because it’s just too hot outside to do anything. And the cycle starts all over again. Go Mother Nature! Show us who’s boss!