Saturday, December 7 2019

packing, monster trucks, traffic, and chicago

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! This morning I'm coming to you from Adam and Sam's kitchen. As I was rustling around trying to find a new set of clothes, Rodney sat up and looked at me. His eyes narrowed tiredly, and he shifted to grab his puppy toy and went back to sleep. So I think it's safe to say I have another half hour or so before he feels like getting out of bed.

Adam and Sam live in the middle of Logan Square Chicago, and they live the perfect distance from the El where you can hear the train quietly roar in the distance, but it doesn't shake the house. I'm pretty sure the train was responsible for lulling me into a deep, restful sleep.

And we needed our sleep! Today is gallery day. Later this morning we're going to head over to the gallery with Sam and start setting up for the show. The plan is to keep Rodney occupied with his toys in the corner, then take him for a walk around the neighborhood when he gets antsy. Who knows - we might even go grab a hot dog or something - but no ketchup!

Yesterday after getting home from the hotel with my dad, I hung around the house and helped my mom feed all the kids lunch. Marissa took a well deserved break from kid duty while I sat on the couch with all the kids. It's such a joy watching them all interact with each other. Even at three, Rodney and Alice's relationship is special. At one point they got in a little skirmish over who was playing with a plastic chip clip, and the fought as some kids do. I intervened, explaining to Rodney that he needs to share, and the way he said "sorry Alice" was really remarkable. I coerce at least a dozen sorry's out of him per day, and I'm used to the way they sound, but the way he said "Sorry Alice - so sorry" was genuinely remorseful and touching.

And Alice is a fascinating kid. Even slightly younger than Rodney, she has focus. She meets your eyes when you talk to her, and she thinks about what you're saying. Not to single out Alice - Frankie is no chopped liver - she too his hilarious and adorable. Marissa tells me that Sarah compares her to eleven from Stranger Things in that she is seemingly mystically clairvoyant and in tune with everything around her, but can't talk, so she can only smile, grin, and furrow her brow.

We repacked Rodney's stuff, then crammed our CRV with clothes, bags, toys, filling in the empty space between the wrapped paintings and frames. Our car was hilariously - cartoonishly - packed with things. "You guys need to get a minivan," laughed my mom as I closed the trunk with one hand, propping up Rodney's mattress with the other. I'm with her there.

We started to make our way to Chicago, stopping off at Target to pick out a toy. He proudly returned with a green monster truck. "We almost went with two smaller ones, but in the end he wanted the single big green one," recounted my wife. Rodney excitedly reiterated the same thing, using plenty of Rodney toddler filler words.

We picked up some coffee, a bagel, then hit the road again. As we approached the city, majestic Sears tower piercing high over the skyline, traffic slowed to a crawl - which I didn't mind at all. Driving downtown is a lot easier when nobody makes any sudden moves. And to add to that, it had been a while since our family was all in the same place. Sitting in traffic on the highway sipping hot coffee, Rodney fiddling with a new toy in the back seat, it's like we were in our own cozy little bedroom inching forward on the highway.

We made it into the city, carefully navigating to Adam and Sam's place. Rodney eventually dozed off, briefly winking awake at the sounds of car horns and trains whizzing by over our heads. At last, we pulled over on his street. Adam cheerily met us on the curb, waiting to park our car in his garage.

Adam and Sam led us into their house, warning us about the stairs. They too have an old house, and being fellow members of the 100 year old house club I felt solidarity in their uneven floors, tricky stairs, and low ceiling edges that have already claimed a piece of my forehead.

We dumped our stuff in their guest bedroom. Rodney sprawled his toys on the table, creating a little nest of monster trucks, dump trucks, and race cares. I was worried at how he'd take the realization that we're spending one more night away from his house, but he really took to it. I like to think he's kind of like me, and finds the city energizing, but he was probably just happy to be out of the car and playing with some new toys. Ginny, their big friendly hounded, bounced from lap to lap warmly welcoming us with big glorious puppy kisses.

We hung around the house for a few hours chatting and catching up. College friends have a funny way of bringing out your college personality - at some point while we were sipping beers and hanging around I suddenly got the urge to skip class, play Halo, and go grab a Burrito.

"Rodney hungry," Rodney interrupted. That was our segue into dinner. We locked up the house and walked a few blocks down to a thai place. "This is one of those sharing places," Adam said. "In that case, I leave it all up to these people!" I proudly announced to the waiter. It's a real treat to just let go and let somebody else order dinner for you. They brought out pad thai, shrimp, and hot fried rice that was ballooning out of a halved pineapple. We toasted our mai tai's, my pregnant wife with her diet coke and Rodney with his pineapple juice - which I imagine was still a pretty exotic choice for him. I'm glad Rodney got to dine out of his comfort zone as well.

Well, now approaching the end of this journal entry, I'm feeling fed, rested, grateful, and ready to work. But I can't help think about our lovely little house in Madison, and our puppies patiently waiting for us to return at the kennel (don't worry - they're doing just fine. We paid for the luxury package). And I'm smiling knowing that this time tomorrow, we'll all be sitting together in the living room home at last.

This has been a wonderful weekend. Seeing the Bears beat the Cowboys at Soldier field, watching Rodney bond with his cousins, and catching up with friends - my cup runneth over.

Alrighty - it's probably time to wake up the rest of my family. Hope you all have a wonderful day today.