I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to Copenhagen, Cleveland, Chicago, and back again. My good friend, Nora, invited me to join her and her six month old son, Jack, for his first trans-Atlantic flight to visit her family in Cleveland. In conjunction with this trip, my parents and I planned to meet up in Chicago to visit my cousin, Laura, and her family there.
I finished up exams and handed in a few assignments before catching a flight to Copenhagen, where Nora and her husband had a night out together while I stayed in in case Jack awoke (which he did, only when his parents came home, very considerately). Jack is a happy little bundle of baby who smiles and gurgles and jumps in his Johnny-Jump-up. Nora and I got some time to catch up before bed, and it is always my pleasure to see her. We’ve been friends since 2000, our freshman year at college, and later we lived together in New York.
We had a sunny day in Copenhagen that Sunday and Nora and Anders and Jack and I took a long walk through Parliament and then to Tivoli, where the flowers were bursting out and families crowded the quaint walkways between carnival games and ice cream stands. I cooked a curry of beets and cabbage and sweet potato with black chickpeas and pomegranate seeds. It came out quite well, if I say so myself.
On Monday, Nora packed up all her baby accoutrements and we headed to the airport on the Metro, in true Danish style. We whiled away long layovers in airport lounges and made it to Cleveland without much of a hitch. There we had a few days of sunny weather and intense family fun with the Ziegenhagens before I caught an Uber to the bus station and traveled to Chicago. Mom and dad picked me up downtown and we checked out Little Italy for lunch before heading to meet up with my cousin in her neighborhood near Wrigley Field.
We enjoyed a lovely dinner and snuggled Laura’s babies: twin five-month olds and one very precocious 2-and-a-half year old.
Then we drove out to our campsite in a park about 25 miles outside of the city. It was a large green space with woods and well-organized sites and we shared it with only a few other campers.
I woke up with the birds chirping around 5:30 in the morning and after breakfast we headed to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. It was a tough time finding parking for our truck with the camper on the back, but we managed eventually and had a lovely stroll through the campus to the Institute.
There were amazing artifacts and statues from ancient Mesopotamia, Turkey, Egypt, Nubia, and Persia and we spent several hours exploring the museum before looking for lunch at a nearby middle eastern restaurant. By then, the day was sunny and warm and we took our time making our way back to the truck. From there, we drove along the Lakeside Drive appreciating the blue of the lake and the picturesque parks along it before turning in to check out China Town. By then it was pretty hot out, so we took Spanky the dog with us as we strolled and she was happy to help us with our yummy Thai ice cream and an almond cookie dad couldn’t resist.
Then it was time to meet up with Laura’s family again, so we headed north towards their neighborhood and spent an hour at a playground with Tessa, her eldest. We had a lot of fun together, playing on a jungle gym and meeting other kids, and then we headed home to order pizza and await Laura’s return from a business trip. We enjoyed our dinner on the back patio in the last of the warm summery day.
I spent the night at their place and the next morning mom and dad made their way back from the campground (with some complications). We loaded up all the kids into Laura’s car and bundled mom and dad into their first Uber and met up at the local Farmers Market. It was another brilliant day and we all got food and picnicked in the shade of a tree.
Laura and her husband took the kids home for a nap and mom and dad and I walked through Lincoln Park to visit the zoo, which is free and was a popular place to be on a sunny Saturday.
We made our way back to Laura’s and got a little more time with the kiddos et al before returning for one last night at our campground. Mom and dad had discovered that wild ramps were growing near our site, so we took Spanky for a walk and surreptitiously dug up some of the trendy greens as we enjoyed forest bathing in the lush spring greenery.
I cleaned them once we got back, and dad built a fire upon which he made some sausages and we grilled some of the ramps. Mom used the gas stove in the camper to make a pasta with pesto sauce and I rehydrated some dried morel mushrooms and prepared the salad dressing.
It was nice to be camping with my parents a gain, as we did last summer in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Dinner was luscious and satisfying and afterward we all got ready for bed, grabbed our books, and packed it in for the night.
In the morning, I made an omelette with more ramps, plus spinach for breakfast, and we crowned it with avocado slices. Luckily we had Spanky along to do a solid pre-wash of our dishes. We packed up our camp chairs and the ladder my parents picked up along the way for free (their favorite thing). Dad and I poked in the sides of the camper as mom lowered it down – we locked it in place and hit the road, enjoying a sunny morning with spring blossoms just emerging.
We drove to Indiana State Dunes National Park, which we had considered a potential camping spot, and we were pleased that we’d chosen to stay in Chicago, since we’d gotten more time with my cousin and we didn’t care for the look of the camp ground in Indiana, emblazoned with signs prohibiting alcoholic beverages! What kind of camping is that? I beseech you! (to quote Bill Hicks).
We got back on the road after a visit to the beach and its intriguing (but gutted) pavilion, built in 1919. We had toll roads the whole way to Cleveland, but it wasn’t a bad drive. By the time we got to Nora’s house, it was nearly 4 pm and the sun was out in full force. I did my best to fancy up (mostly mascara) and we brought a bottle of rose, since there was a large gathering of friends and family there to meet baby Jack. He awoke not long after we arrived and emerged like Simba, to the oohing and ahhing of all.
He was a good sport as they passed him around and my parents got the chance to snuggle him, too. He is a most snuggly baby.
We left to find our campsite at the nearby Punderson State Park, and discovered we had the place almost entirely to ourselves. It was a Monday, so all the weekend traffic had dissipated and we didn’t have any neighbors at all.
Once we got our things settled, we went back for dinner with the Ziegenhagens and had a lovely night chatting and eating and enjoying the good company.
Somewhere in there, I got a sinus infection and I spent the evening taking medicines and sucking zinc tablets.
The next day we looked for a plum tree dad wanted, but to no avail. We stopped by the Ziegenhagens’ to say hello, then we went for lunch in downtown Cleveland, to a location of Yours Truly, a chain of restaurants belonging to Nora’s family. After stuffing ourselves, we went to Chagrin Falls, the charming little town near Nora’s home, and wandered around its quaint historic district.
Back at the campground, mom and I took Spanky for a long hike around the park while dad attempted to pilfer some trout lilies we’d seen growing nearby, with a spade he’d purchased for digging up the ramps.
Mom hung up a hammock and we took turns lounging in it and preparing things for dinner. I whipped up a veggie chili with beans and jackfruit and mom made cornbread in her tiny red oven, which I call her EasyBake Oven. Dinner around our campfire was delicious and Spanky again offered her services as dishwasher, with gusto.
Finally, the fire died down and it was time for bed. In the morning, we went to the Ziegenhagens’ and Nora’s mother made us delicious pancakes for breakfast. After one last snuggle with Jack, we said farewell to my parents and they were headed back south.
It was another beautiful day and we went to Nora’s sister’s for lunch and lotsa baby time. It was gorgeous out and we sat in the backyard and enjoyed the sunshine with the kids.
That evening we all went out for Darlene’s birthday and it was another big family affair with crying babies and lively conversation.
Finally the night was over and it was time to turn in for one last night in Cleveland. . . or so we thought. There was a snag in our plan when a thunderstorm made us miss our flight to Chicago and we were rebooked on a flight for next day, after eight hours at the airport. So back we went to the Ziegenhagens’ house for one last night. We were a merry party and Darlene cooked us a late dinner as we sipped drinks and told our harrowing tale.
The next day held more excitement, but we ultimately got to Toronto, where we hunkered down for hours in the lounge, which was the best we experienced, by far. Finally it was time for our flight to Copenhagen.
We were nervous about Jack, but ultimately he ate and slept and didn’t fuss too much, and slept more, and then we landed and he was still sleeping! He slept all the way home and kept on sleeping once he was in his bed. Nora and I were exhausted and her husband Anders met us at the airport to help with bags and bought us breakfast once we got home.
Because of the delay, there was not much time before my flight back to London, but we had a good time together (and napped) until I had to go back to the airport and back to London.
It felt strange not to have any babies around, strange to be still and alone, when I had been constantly on the move and socializing for two weeks. Here I was back in my flat, which unfortunately smelled awful due to some black bananas and some sheets I’d forgotten in the washing machine, which had mildewed in my absence.
I threw out the old food and went to the store for the basics: pizza, basil, chilies, coconut milk, and wine. I spent the next couple of days sleeping at odd hours and feeling totally unfocused, slowly emerging from the fog.
Now I’m in the thick of one last paper, and then it will be time to head to Portugal for a few days of sightseeing and a couple of weeks on a dig. Then I will go to Spain and Italy, visiting friends and seeing new places. I hope to make it to Sicily and Malta and then I’ll head to France. I hope to see friends there, and then I may have to go back to the States to sort out my visa for next year. It seems quite likely I will be doing my Masters at UCL next year, so there is much I must do!
In the meantime, I am busy weaving a tangled plan of advance on the next few months! Hopefully I’ll be a more frequent blogger once I’m done with my papers (for now)!
One final note: last night was a new moon and I had the strangest experience. It was a sort of psychic visitation that’s a little hard to define. Sort of like a waking dream. I’ve never had such an experience before (well maybe once long ago), so either I was delirious and imagining things or maybe I had a meeting in the liminal space between sleeping and waking.
I do so love a little fantasy in my life. And I’m almost too busy for real relationships lately, though I did make sure to enjoy the beautiful weather on Tuesday and took notes for my paper at a sidewalk cafe before shifting to the canal, where I brought some rose and one of my sturdy charity shop goblets and lounged on the median by the locks.
I’d been there only once before, with my ex, nearly four years ago now. But honestly, I don’t feel so haunted by him anymore. I feel clarified, purified, justified in my choices and standards. I enjoyed my rose and reading till the sun set behind the burgeoning buildings. Then I met up with my friend Saltanat for a chat and some of my standard curry (that makes it sound unappealing, but it wouldn’t be my standard if it sucked).
And now to focus on finishing my work and preparing for the next step in my journey.
I’d better get to it!
Love and miss,