Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coming Home

Chicago was home for nearly 20 years.  I lived on my own for the very first time in a tiny studio I shared with the roaches.  We came to an uneasy truce, the bugs and I: they stayed off the bed and I didn't smash them when they ran for cover as I turned on the light in the kitchenette.  The apartment was awful but the city was grand.

DePaul before it was gentrified, then Lincoln Park and Lakeview and Buena Park but mostly the city itself, we lived all over the city.  Longtime denizens know of my love affair with Chicago; the lakefront and the parks and the music and the people.  It was hard to leave and we love going back, especially now that Little Cuter and SIR are there.  So, when we received the 60th birthday party invitation last month I made it a goal.  Air travel by the last week of April.

We were leaving 90 and sunny for 40 and dreary but we didn't care.  Our kids in our favorite city with some of our favorite people thrown in for spice - what could go wrong.  The friends and family were outstanding, all that we could ask for and then twice more.  As for the rest of it, well.......

No one at Tucson International Airport had a clue about what to do with me and my walker and my cane and the borrowed wheelchair.  Could TBG push me himself?  Should the walker go through security with me or be checked at the ticket counter?  Did we have the proper labeling for all my paraphernalia?  Which security lane could accommodate me?  Did my laptop need to come out of the backpack?  Why didn't I have a blue pre-boarding packet like the others in our gimpy group at the edge of the doorway?  Did I have to put the cane in the overhead bin or could it rest on the side of my seat?  Would there be a wheelchair for me at the other end?  And, once again, could TBG push me through the airport or did I have to wait for a red vested attendant?

Since I usually fly wearing no coat and slip-on shoes, with one small carry-on and a personal item in the form of TBG's 20th Reunion Cornell Class of '72 backpack, this trip was a new experience for me.  TBG is a reluctant-at-best flier; this was making him nuts. 

We ended up in the aisle and middle bulkhead seats next to a lovely young soldier who slept the whole way.  Our friends were held up in traffic, but the sun was out and the breeze was soft as we waited on the bench for our ride uptown.  There was a lot of whistle blowing and frantic arm waving by yellow clad traffic officers wielding flashing orange lights.  Not one bit like Tucson, and we were loving it.

It was all downhill from there.  The weather turned ugly, with cold rain and blustery winds.  Parking is a nightmare, so when my done-in-Chicago-and-guaranteed-not-to-chip-shellac-french-manicure chipped it was too much of an effort to get back to the salon for a fix.  Without a shattered hip it would have been a lovely 20 minute excursion to the end of their street and back.  With a shattered hip, one of the kids would have had to drive me up there and then re-park.  And we had such a great space, it seemed a shame to move the car at all.  Such is life in the city.

Does it sound like I'm whining?  I guess I am.  What started out to be "I'm glad it's yukky out so that I don't miss out on everyone else walking along the lake" turned into "This weather is making my scars ache."  I was bitter.

And then I began to think about it from another perspective, the perspective that Nance alluded to in her comment yesterday.  This was good, solid and normal.  It was freezing cold at the end of April and I was peeved.  I wanted Springtime and the wonderful thing was that everyone else did, too.  From the doorman to the newscasters, everyone was peeved.  I was not the only one.  My concerns were everyone's concerns.  I was normal.  It felt good to be in the moment with everyone else.  The fact that the moment was all about something as mundane as the weather was just icing on the cake.

And yet I was in the moment and the moment was gloomy. Even with the wonderfulness of old friends and Benito (the kids' couch - yes, we do have a naming mania it seems) and playing scrabble with SIR and Little Cuter I was vaguely ill at ease.  We taxied.  We ate. We talked. We taxied. We ate. We talked. The company was outstanding; I just wished we were all in the sunny and warm desert Southwest.

For the first time, Chicago felt alien to me.  I always had a little frisson of regret when I left before.  This time,  I was happy to be on the plane, returning home.

Because Tucson truly is home now.  The anonymity of the big city, which used to be so attractive to me, now only seems aloof and cold.  The hustle and bustle which once drew me in is now more noise and bother than excitement.  Tucson's relaxed friendliness is my warm blanket now.

Like this:
There were some extraordinarily rude people boarding the plane home who, for a variety of really rather uninteresting reasons, prevented us from sitting in the bulkhead seats.  Upon landing at TIA, we unwound our achy legs from the second row, gathered our luggage and got home as fast as we could.  I went out to get sandwiches and was greeted by a giant hug from a total stranger who recognized my face.  She told me she was sorry for my loss and she held me tight as she told me that I was doing then what she was going to do now - take an 8 year old out for an adventure.  We exchanged rueful but loving smiles and went on our way.
As much as I try to deny it, this is also my moment, and others are sharing it with me.  This is my normal.

It felt good to be home.


  1. What goes around comes around--those rude jerks will get theirs eventually! Glad you enjoyed seeing the kids, and glad that you are now "home" in the sunshine!xoxoxo

  2. After my then seven year-old's leg had been broken by a camp counselor and the wheelchair and the numerous casts, I learned that people have no patience for people that are disabled. People are rude and they just don't care. It's all about THEM. Really made me sad to see people being mean to my daughter because she needed extra help in the airport and at Disney World.

    BUT... then you find a lovely person like that woman that hugged you and all is right in the world. You are embarking on a different journey than you planned and now Tucson is your home. You are tied to it because of the love and warmth that surround you.

    Glad you are back where you can be embraced and loved by passing strangers that actually care.

    Megan xxx

  3. Tucson does become home doesn't it? I love Chicago and have enjoyed your posts from there. I grew up on a farm in Northern Indiana and trips to the beach were trips to Lake Michigan dunes. The one time I left the state without my mother's permission as a teen was to go see a play! Oh, I miss Chicago! Even with all the travel hassle, it sure sounds like the trip was worth it!

  4. A play in Chicago... duh. Back to the coffee pot.

  5. I love Chicago too, only with warmer weather, lol

  6. Welcome back. Chicago is a wonderful city, but I would only go in very warm weather.

  7. Home. How odd--but how fitting, too--that it took trauma and tragedy to make your city home at last. And warm and dry is, I find, the very best climate for healing; cold and damp is terrible!

    My friend Susan would love to swap stories with you about flying with disabilities and a wheelchair. She finally got up her nerve to fly alone across the country to meet me in L.A. a couple of years ago. She had it planned so well. What could go wrong? The airport helpers wound up denting her custom wheelchair frame and, on the ramp into the plane, dumping her out of her chair entirely and breaking her thumb. It was so awful, we had no choice but laugh until we were limp.

    Still, you did it, girl! You met your goal, made that flight, handled the best and the worst of it. I am, as usual, awed.

  8. Aw, sweet post. Glad you had a good trip, welcome home!

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