Monday, December 8, 2008

December Weekend in Chicago

We're playing tourists, falling in love with the city all over again.

We've been staying in a condo off Michigan Avenue while the house is all dust and raw studs and I'm so happy it's turning out more like a vacation than an exile.

Thanks to Caitlin and the nice folks at Savvy Source, I won a free pass to Day Frog, downtown's newest indoor play area for infants to six year olds. My kids have been back twice now and they are asking to return almost every day. The expansive, brightly colored recreation center has climbing structures, slides, a dress up area, arts and crafts, a sweet play kitchen as well as the convenient and clean real thing, scooters and toys galore. Mia loved the doll house best of all. The play center is on the first floor of the office building at 233 East Erie; for safety and privacy, there is no outside signage.

Saturday morning we got up and wrote a letter to Santa. On Mia's list, a white kitty with pink and purple ribbons and jewels on the collar. Nora wants "a Dora doll, soft, not hard, with clothes."

We found a red envelope at Randy's work and Mia wrote out "SANTAATTHENORTHPOLE" on the front. We cabbed it over to Macy's. Mia whispers, "They don't wait for you to put your seatbelt on," as the cab pulls from the curb. The girls were thrilled to see a mounted policeman on his horse walk right next to us on Wabash.

The old Marshall Field's signs on the new Macy's just make me sad. I don't have anything against Macy's really - I grew up with the store in Kansas City and it is the Miracle on 34th Street store after all. But the decision to change the name and pull the identity of the revered State Street institution seems a boneheaded corporate move. The place is still mobbed. The bank of elevators reside in a hall that's a mix of old time elegant fixtures, half-hearted stylish renovation and exposed pipes. The seventh floor is full of crowds to see the tree, the Walnut Room and Santa, none of which we bother with. We are here just for the red mailbox. Macy's will donate a dollar to the Make a Wish Foundation for every letter to Santa so we drop in ours and write a couple more P.S.'s for good measure.

Down to the luggage department where pink or purple child size suitcases come only in 5 piece packages. We play a little with the cases anyway, then drag the girls past the candy department on the way to lunch. After unhappy Mia is revived with some coloring and pizza, Randy takes the girls to see the animatronic windows while I stand in a slow line to buy Mia some "nostalgia by the pound": Fun Dip.

Outside in the chill I find Dad and the girls entranced by the little robots behind glass - the story behind the windows is usually a classic like Peter Pan or Cinderella; this year they went another route with made up creatures preparing the trimmings for the Walnut Room tree. A little self-reflexive marketing rather than pure enchantment for the kids.

We get the car and take the kids up to Evanston for a gingerbread house making party while Dad and I have a quick meeting with the contractor.

Nora falls asleep during dinner but Mia is still up and raring to go, so around 7 she and I walk down Michigan Avenue to Millennium Park to go skating. It's a beautiful night, cold, but we are bundled and ready. We oo and ah at the green and red lights transforming the pinnacle of the Wrigley Building into a holiday confection. At the rink, I think the crowds are just entranced by the Zamboni and they are, but the mob is also waiting in a 40 minute line. I'm not one to accept that kind of impediment so I find a big guy in a yellow Millennium Park jacket. "Do you work here?"

His half shrug, half flourish of the enormous bright yellow jacket is a thing to behold.

"I thought that was your name," I reply, in what no one his young pretty age would mistake as flirtation. "Mel Park. Is this really a 40 minute line?" I like to try to bend reality to my will. Tonight it works.

"There's another rink on the other side of the park at Daley Plaza. There are no lines and it's probably more the kind of crowd for..." He gestures toward little Mia.

We run away, delighted. Now we get a beautiful walk in the park, too. Past the snow capped Bean, around the white expanse of the Pritzker Pavilion lawn (the view from the far end directly opposite the stage is awesome) and onto the snaky BP Bridge. We roll snowballs off the sloped sides, trace our initials in the snow and sing, "Ho, ho, ho, we love the snow!" Some of the boards are slick steel, so Mia gets a chance to skate a little after all. The Daley Plaza rec center stopped renting about half an hour before we get there. Mia is easily consoled with some Skittles. We've had a beautiful night.

Sunday morning I fiddle with a post and read the paper while Randy works on our Christmas card. Yeah, it's black. And so cute I can't stop laughing. Around noon Dad takes Mia to Winter Wonderfest on Navy Pier while I hang out with nappy Nora. Totally satisfying for all of us.


2KoP said...

You are so calm about this whole construction thing. It sounds like a great weekend.

Oh, how I miss Marshall Fields (Bah Humbug, Macy's). But just when I thought we were losing all our Chicago customs, our governor was arrested for corruption. Tradition lives!

The Hen said...

That sounds like a perfectly lovely weekend.

Anne Ward said...

What a FUN side effect of the chaos of construction!