Lilly’s Big Day Out: Part 1

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life, Family 4
High tea. Lilly will not be having prosecco. Image: Wikipedia
High tea. Lilly will not be having prosecco. Image: Wikipedia

I’ve shared stories about PaperGirl readers doing beautiful work in the world, like making me monkeys and sending me candy pumpkins. And just before Christmas, while I was working in Florida, I finally got to meet friends I’ve had for almost a decade but had never met. PaperGirl doesn’t just yeild daily writing practice and a place for me to sort things out, it yeilds special relationships.

Rita is quilter, a writer, and a longtime PG reader. Rita is also a grandmother. She is Lilly’s grandmother. Rita wrote to me a couple months ago — we’ve never met — that she wanted to surprise Lilly with a trip to Chicago for her seventh birthday. (How is it possible to have an age that is a single digit?) Rita emailed because she knew I’d have some great insider tips. Totally.

I was delighted to serve as a tour director to the best of my ability, but then something wonderful happened: I saw that I’d actually be home when the girls came to town. I asked Rita if I could personally escort them around for a few hours on Saturday. The answer was “Yeah!!” and so it is that tomorrow, I get to hang out with Rita and Miss Lilly Herself. The following plan has been Gramma Approved:

12pm — Meet the girls at their hotel on Michigan Ave.

12-12:15pm — Ride the #3 bus down Michigan Ave. This is a specifically planned activity because both Rita and Lilly are very excited about sampling Chicago public transit. I can make that happen.

12:30-2pm — Free tickets to the Art Institute! I’m excited to present Lilly with her very own ticket. I know a guy, so I have passes for all of us.

2-2:30pm — Bum around on the steps of the Art Institute, check out the El train on Wabash a block away, take lots of pictures, work up an appetite.

2:30-3:30 — High tea at nearby Russian Tea Time! You know the whole fancy tea party game little girls like to play? The white glove, cucumber sandwiches thing? It’s mimicking something called “high tea” (I’ll do a post on that later, it’s an interesting topic) and I’m taking Rita and Lilly to one of the best spots in the city for it. The last time I had high tea it was intense and emotional. I think “intense” and “emotional” won’t play into it tomorrow, probably. Just fun and maybe funny.

3:30-4pm — If Lilly’s not tuckered out, we’ll all walk the couple blocks from the Institute/Tea Time to my condo. Lilly can see how a city girl lives and I can show Rita some quilts. (Note to self: get pantyhose off the shower rod, make bed, wipe counter.) The view from the top of my building is fantastic, too: all Lake Michigan and skyline, baby.

Lilly doesn’t know she’s getting a surrogate auntie for her birthday. I’m so excited!

“Dear New York: Love, Chicago.”

The Wabash St. bridge, going up to make way for a ship.
The Wabash St. bridge, going up to make way for a ship. No big deal.

“Dear New York:

I’m writing because I’m concerned about Mary.

When she left me to come see you she was guarded, uneasy about being away from me for so long. Six weeks is a long time, no doubt about it. She and I have been together well over twelve years, and though Mary travels extensively, even her longest trips are usually no more than two weeks; there loomed over us significant separation anxiety. Plus, who would get the mail?

She was also concerned because — though she had a serious crush on you for most of her life — Mary suffers from a mild case of New York City-induced low-level panic. The scale of you (huge) and your population density (dense) causes her to chew her lip and drink too much coffee when she’s with you for even short periods of time. It’s a mild case, but even so.

But that anxiety has disappeared. Her lip-chewing incident was last week and was an isolated event. Rather than feeling skittish, she’s relaxed. In place of the subtle “outsider” or “impostor” syndrome she has felt with you in years past, there is a wholesomeness to her experience so far and a peculiar calm — this is even with the pools of filthy slush she has to wade through, the constant honking on 1st Ave. and the really, really badly cut finger she has right now due to the cheap-a** drinking glasses in this furnished apartment that continue to break in her hands.

Mary is falling in love with you, New York, and this is not okay with me.

I am Chicago. I am her Nelson Algren and Saul Bellow. I am where Mary wrote poems for microphones. We became Neo-Futurists together. She is my lake beyond the slaughter yards. I reflect her in the windows downtown; I am her osso bucco; we have our own booth at Spiaggia. I’m leather, she’s lace. We read all the books, all the time, we have tea in the morning. We’ve gotten kicked out of bars and invited into libraries. Mary and I are involved, is what I’m saying, New York.

We have also recently renovated the bathroom and the kitchen.

While Mary’s with you and you hear her say things like, “I love it here,” or “I wanna move here,” please let me know. I will make sure to note the time and date of the sentiment and also be able to mobilize forces here to convince her to a) stop saying things like that entirely; or b) adapt the statements to something more like, “I love it here BUT I could never live here forever,” or “I wanna move here…but I’ll never give up my place in Chicago, the city of my dreams and where my heart is forever and ever, amen.”

I’m sure you understand. I simply can’t lose her.

With Regards,