Here we are, in Chicago, waiting for the arrival of a very special baby girl. The phone rang last Tuesday afternoon, prompting a flurry of suitcases, phone calls, housesitter arrivals, ticket purchases, last-minute instructions, and general running around the house in small excited circles, like side-by-side triple axels with barely stuck landings. But we somehow managed to make it out of there just fine. Zing!
Arriving, we found that baby had decided to wait after all — very good baby!!! Once again we are waiting for a phone to ring, letting us know that she is here! It's Monday morning at Andy's parents' house. The house is incredibly quiet. Andy's parents both left for work early this morning and now Andy and I are here alone, goofing off and passing the time, fussing with the temporary mini-nursery, folding baby clothes, playing with the kitty, walking around the lake, bouncing on the yoga ball, daring each other to see what baby formula actually tastes like, setting up baby monitors and bottle sterilizers, knitting tiny heartwarmers, trying to figure out how the baby sling works, trying to figure out how the baby carrier works, trying to figure out how the television works, checking the phone again, talking about our hopes and dreams, sitting on the back deck watching geese fly overhead through the cold, crisp air. It was not too long ago that this subdivision was a farmer's field.
On the verge of motherhood, in some ways I feel like I am suddenly, ironically, back in my own childhood. The sky looks the same as it did then, and also like nowhere else I've lived. The leaves look the same, the bare trees look the same, the leaves smell the same. The color of the light from the streetlights is the same. Passing through Oak Park on the expressway the other night I cried in the car, thinking of my dad and missing him more than I could say, thinking of how he was always here, always, always at home. Before this past summer, the last time I had been in Chicago was ten years ago, shortly after he passed away. He died in Oregon, but that never seemed right. One afternoon during our visit here last month, I sat in the park across from my old house for several hours and stared at it, and it looked just like my dad to me, and it looked like me, and it looked like my family. I felt like I was looking at people. Our life was so thoroughly there, in that place. My parents lived on Forest Avenue for almost thirty years until they moved to Oregon in late 1998 to be nearer to my sister and me (we were already there). For several reasons, I wasn't able to come back then, that autumn when they were moving. The house is in a cul-de-sac. It was strange to have to sit like a stranger, across the street in the park where the swings used to be; it was the same point from which I had looked at my house a thousand times before, pumping my legs back and forth on the swings: house closer, now farther, now closer, now farther away. I didn't dare get too close this time. I felt like I could walk off the sidewalk and right up the front stairs into the past. But I didn't want that. I could hear acorns falling from the hundred-foot-tall trees. I walked a few blocks down Linden to Thatcher and the edge of the woods, my first woods, and looked in at them. My dad had dragged us there to go walking around all the time when we were growing up, and we had mostly hated it. Go figure. I was told never, ever to go into them alone. And so I didn't this time, either. But I missed him, and wished he were here now, for all of this.
Andy's parents live farther out of town now. The suburbs stretch farther than they did when we were kids, the neighborhoods out this way a strange mix of farm fields and gated communities. I love the prairie grasses and the cornfields and the cattails that line the sides of the road. I love the the bare, black oak tree branches against the blue sky, the way the downtown skyscrapers rise like mountains. I love the rusty El tracks overhead, the busty pigeons, the wide, wide sidewalks downtown and all of the people and buses and taxis. I love the museums, the planetarium, the Art Institute where my parents met, the fancy old apartment and office buildings. I used to work in one of them, on the corner of Michigan and Madison, but that was a long time ago; I'm a tourist now. I'm absolutely amazed at and intimidated by how many expressways there are, how many lanes of whooshing traffic, how many people and malls and stores, how many things to eat. Andy is sitting in his dad's recliner at this moment, reading a book about hot dogs and eating from a gigantic wax-paper bag of cheese-and-carmel popcorn from Garrett's, which he walked into the room carrying on one arm, like a baby.
We wait, and dink around the house, and pray, and wait.
In our family, people were always making things and selling them. All the time. It was just what our People did. Our dad was very entreprenurial. He was a musician by night and a commercial artist by day (I don't even know if there is such a thing anymore), but in his spare time he was always inventing something and selling it through mail order. The one I remember best was the light that you put on the top of your car antenna that went on whenever you were talking on your CB radio. That was an awesome one. My mom, too, always had businesses while we were growing up — she made and decorated cakes to order for friends and neighbors (our little sister, Susie, is now a professional pastry chef and wedding cake designer), she sold bread-dough baskets and wreathes, she made jewelry. I had my first business at age 13, when I sold model horse accesories (blankets, saddle pads) that I made out of felt and embroidery floss through a classified ad in a model horse magazine. My sister Julie is one of the most amazingly creative people I know. For many years she has designed a line of greeting cards; they are now sold at Target, Whole Foods, and Cost Plus. (But don't ask her about them because she will get all twitchy and modest about it; I know this because I just this very moment tried.) She recently opened an Etsy shop with her own very Julieish style, which I love.
I swear, I didn't plan this metaphor yesterday, but you know what they say about apples. Not falling far. My most excellent and exquisite niece Arden, Julie's daughter, has likely inherited more creative talent from both of her parents than anyone in the universe (says her proud auntie). But she is her own girl, and she has very specific interests and a unique style, and now her very own Etsy shop, too.
Remember this post, when we were learning to make a granny square? Four years ago. Sigh. That went way too fast. Way too fast.
I think I'm going to make an apple pie, but I might look for a different apple pie than the apple pie I usually make. I love apple pie. This apple is a Jonagold. I don't know if I've ever made a pie with Jonagold apples? I like sweet apples. My grandpa ate a yellow apple — I guess it was a Golden Delicious apple — after lunch every single day. He peeled it with a sharp little paring knife at the kitchen table. When I went to Italy when I was in college, I walked into the room at our pensione (which was somebody's very old apartment that they'd turned into a sort of hotel) and it reminded me so much of my grandparents house, with a little square oilcloth-covered table, that I promptly burst into tears. The strangest thing was that my grandma's house had a very particular smell — kind of like Italian cooking with just a hint of mothballs — and earlier that same day, on the train from Munich to Rome, all of a sudden I had smelled that exact same smell. And I'd never smelled it anywhere else; my grandparents were gone, their house long sold. So when I later saw the table I just cried.
My grandpa was the fastest eater I've ever seen. My father was constantly yelling at him to slow down. But he ate an apple a day and he lived until he was in his late eighties, I think. Every time I eat an apple I think of him and his yellow apples. Always yellow. From the "pepper store," which is what we called the Italian greengrocer he liked to go to. I think it was this one, in Elmwood Park. Caputo's. I see from reading their history page that the founder was from a seaside town in Italy that was close to where my grandpa was from. I wonder if he knew that. He probably did. Those guys liked to stick together.
Steam being let off into the woods from the steam train at the Oregon Zoo
Oh, snap! Andy had a big birthday on Sunday, and we had a truly magical weekend. Our niece Brooke and nephew Max and Andy's mom came all the way from Chicago to spend a couple of (too short) days with us, and we seriously painted the town. We rode the street car, went to Little Big Burger, read books at Powell's, sat by the river, watched an omnimax movie at OMSI, had dinner at the brewpub, went to the dog park, played games at Wunderland, made pizza, finished a puzzle, stopped (of course) at the Waffle Window, toured the zoo, and hitched a ride through the woods on the zoo train. Best birthday ever. Ever ever.
Zzzzzzzzz. Aunt Alicia needed a nap after that, must confess.
Today it is too quiet and too clean (and, er, too cold — it's barely made it out of the 50s in too many days to count). Everyone is back at home, and Andy's back at work. The house has been put back in order, the air mattress deflated and tucked away. Towels and sheets are in the washing machine, the dog is back on the sofa, smooshed up against me as I write, and the presents are stacked and organized. The French Open is on. And there is cake left in the fridge. Mini-post-celebration — cake for breakfast. I like it.
As you head away from the city, it may be warm and raining.
But at the mountain, the world (and time) has frozen.
We went to Timberline Lodge with our friends Keely and Josh like we did for my birthday last year. It's become a sort of unexpected tradition I am happy to continue, as I honestly cannot imagine a better or more beautiful place for a new year's birthday.
Andy gave me an iPhone for my birthday. I wasn't that interested in the iPhone until I got one and started playing with it and now I love it. I took all of these pictues with the phone. I love taking pictures with the phone! (Which is good, since I left my huge bag of knitting [I think I had four WIPs, a brand new book, all of my tools like tape measure and yarn needles and stitch markers in there] and my big black camera [also in the bag] at the hotel. But we won't talk about that. It was supposed to be overnighted to me but has yet to arrive; hopefully the camera will survive the trip.)
I had thought I wanted it to snow until I saw that we were going to get a sunset, and then I didn't mind at all that it didn't snow.
This sunset was magical.
Hipstamatically enhanced, but that only makes it look how it felt, I think.
I really had no idea how to control this camera so I just let it do whatever it wanted. It was like a corgi in that way.
Thank you so much for your birthday wishes last week! I hope someday you go to Timberline Lodge and you are there sitting next to the huge fireplace as the sun is setting. That's my birthday wish for you.
We had dinner in the restaurant and then sat in the hot tub outside, under the stars. I didn't really sleep the whole night, though I tried (hotel pillow too squishy: "What is this? A bag of frosting?"). The next morning, though:
Taken from the window of our room. Seriously.
J+ K adorableness.
Too soon it was time to go home.
It was such a great day. I even got to walk around in the snow with my special traction chains. That was just amazing.
The light was silver, it didn't rain (miracle), and was actually quite warm (warm relative to the freezing downpour that is our new normal here in P-town) down by the water. There was even a touch of humidity which felt absolutely wonderful. (That's something I never, ever thought I'd say in my life. But there it is.)
It was so beautiful. It smelled like pine trees and river. I love the sound of the water gurgling by.