City mouse, country mouse…
Recently, my daughter asked me to go on an adventure with her. Let’s go to Chicago! You will love it! she said. I’ll admit that I was more than a bit skeptical. Large crowds of people, traffic, and noise aren’t generally my idea of the perfect vacation getaway spot. Give me a beach any day. It’ll be great, Mom! The museums are amazing and the pizza is wonderful! she said. We can walk almost everywhere! And it only takes an hour and fifteen minutes flying time to get there! she said. The Chicago Board of Tourism should seriously consider hiring this girl. She’s THAT good.
And so, I started packing.
Chicago is a big, blustery city of stark contrasts. Sparkling Lake Michigan laps at the shore only blocks from the grit and sirens along Michigan Avenue. It reminded me of a really big, flatter, version of Duluth. We walked along the breakwater after visiting the dinosaurs at the Field museum the second day we were there, and I caught myself looking back toward the impressive skyline more than once. From the shore, Chicago looks like a city of gray Legos. It is only when you actually walk downtown that you grasp the variations and intricacies in the architecture that the city is widely known for. There are lush city parks with beautifully tended rose gardens where tourists stroll, but the iconic “Bean” in Millennium Park fails to reflect the sobering reality of so many of the city’s homeless at street corners only blocks away. In this way, Chicago is no better or worse than most big metropolitan areas, I suppose.
Even so, my city mouse girl loves Chicago. As we walked along the Magnificent Mile, stopping in shops along the way, she talked about how she’d like to live there one day. The Mom part of me who is proud of her utter fearlessness and independence agreed that living there would be quite an adventure. The someday-there-will-be-grandchildren-and-Chicago-is-too-far-away Mom part was less enthusiastic. It is clear we are at completely different stages of life. For now, it is just one of the many dreams she has for where life will take her. No need to panic at my end. But as she talked, I was reminded of a dear friend of mine who admitted once that when her future son-in-law came to ask for her daughter’s hand in marriage, she’d made him promise (I think he even had to sign something) that he would not move her daughter more than six hours away from her for the rest of their lives. And she wasn’t kidding. Not even a little bit.
To my friend, I say this. I get it now. I totally get it.
Fortunately, my daughter forgives me for my neurotic country mouse mom ways, even when I whine about not being able to visit my imaginary grandchildren. As I struggled to keep up with the 5 foot tall young woman weaving effortlessly through crowds, I marveled at her confidence in navigating a city the size of Chicago. How nice to know that she is capable of venturing out into the world more brave than I was at her age. How nice, at this stage of motherhood, to be more wanted, than needed. To know she will be just fine wherever she is.
We visited the Art Institute and spent most of the time admiring the Impressionists. We rode an elevator to the 96th floor of a building and had wine as we watched the sun set over the city. We went to the opera and walked miles and ate deep dish pizza which really IS as good as they say it is. We giggled over stupid stuff and agreed that most of the clothes in most of the stores were much too expensive and not even very pretty. And during lunch, I raised a toast to the two of us and the wonderful stages of life we are each in.
Each of us, looking forward to new adventures, new roads.