August 24-Sept 1, 2022
Wednesday morning I descended the steep stairs to appear in Bob and Diane’s kitchen in my jammies, helping myself to a cup of coffee before claiming a spot on the porch sectional, my home base for the next two days. Shortly the hosts drove off in their kayak-laden sedan for Wisconsin leaving me to stare transfixed at the beautifully landscaped yard with a soundtrack provided by numerous birds. I didn’t play games on my Ipad, check messages, or read. I just stared.
Alas, it was time to meet the Old Farts at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. This group of three women met in grad school, initially to complete undergrad courses at what was then Elmhurst College, now Elmhurst University, and then to complete the degree at Northern Illinois University. We were “nontraditional” students, meaning older than everyone else. Thus dubbed the Old Farts. We three and our husbands became fast friends and continue to get together whenever possible. Now grieving the loss of one of the men, we felt John’s presence that afternoon.
While the women chatted waiting for lunch in the café, the men excused themselves to find a power station for Cliff’s car. I think they just wanted to escape the chatter.
The arboretum is a must-see! Its 1700 acres include not only a wide variety of trees but flowers and grasses and ponds, with trails for jogging, biking, and walking. Old Old Fart Sue—the oldest of the three—donned her docent hat and led us through the children’s section, a veritable playground of nature. I couldn’t wait to get my grandkids there someday. A one-hour Acorn Express Tram Tour completed our visit before we took a photo and bade each other farewell boisterously.
Mike and I drove a short distance to Wheaton to visit Esther and Howard who have two girls the same ages as our daughters. We raised them together, even exchanging kids for days in the summer after they moved to Michigan. Tradition demanded a cocktail on the patio before dinner. At one time, Esther would have cooked from scratch. On this day, she opened packages. The results were worth her conservation of time and energy. Many conversations, commiseration, and laughter. Friends who are family. We are blessed with many of them. The visit was too short.
Unable to connect with other friends, we spent the rest of only two days staring at the Roselle Airbnb’s garden, shortening our stay by a day to drive to C-boy’s and SD’s Chicago condos on Friday. The drive from the suburbs was fraught with stop-and-go traffic. The route through colorful ethnic neighborhoods was interesting but nerve-wracking. Our excitement to meet up with the family and new baby, Charlie, tempered the frustration of city traffic. We would soon learn that, of course, he is perfect, as is his sister LLJ. Charlie’s dark hair, fine nose, lanky legs, and almond eyes contrasted with his sister’s features. Unlike LLJ who was repulsed by my eyeglasses, Charlie loved Grandma Mary immediately.
The days are a blur. I know we ate pizza from Calo’s, MBP’s great cooking, and SD’s innovative use of food remnants. LLJ’s antics at 16 months kept us laughing, her fake laugh being a favorite. We enjoyed a walk to Foster Beach, cuddling Charlie, and preparing for the upcoming family reunions. We met friends-who-are-family Susan and Allen at J. Alexander’s Redlands Grill in Northbrook, laughing through 90 minutes of lunch. The weather was warm and humid most of the time, but often pleasant enough to enjoy sitting on the deck to read. I put together a favorite Shrimp Salad New Orleans for the family while Mike made some minor repairs in Amy’s condo. With the girls working and C-boy and P-DiL busy with babies, there was little time for games. Remarkably, we didn’t go downtown at all.
Although I was looking forward to the upcoming family reunions, I was ready to be done with the planning. A faint yearning to go home nudged me to think about our return to Arizona. We had been gone for almost two months. It might be time.