Ginger and I spent the day in Chicago on Friday.
We’ve been planning it for some time. April 21st will mark our nineteenth wedding anniversary and the 23rd the twenty-first birthday of Scott, our nephew who is in school just outside of Chicago, so a joint celebration seemed appropriate. Add to the mix that we had some frequent flyer miles to get us to the Windy City, we had never been to Wrigley Field, and the Cubs had an afternoon game and everything seemed to come together.
We were out of the house about six thirty yesterday morning, and in the air by eight. At nine o’clock Central Daylight Time, we were on the ground in Chicago; soon afterwards, we were in the car and headed downtown. After a stop lakeside to get a wonderful view of the city, we went to the Art Institute of Chicago and wandered through everything from amazing photographs, Impressionists, and a good helping of the Hudson River School before we found our way out on to Michigan Avenue and lunch at the Hard Rock Café (a tradition because Ginger and I were engaged at the Hard Rock in Dallas). After lunch, Scott drove us to Wrigleyville and the three of us found our way into the ballpark. I wanted to go to Wrigley because it, like Fenway, is one of the great old parks in baseball and I wanted to see the Cubs play because they, like the Red Sox, know a great deal about hope and heartbreak. The Cubbies came from behind in the bottom of the eighth and then hung on to beat the Cardinals 8-7 and make everybody’s day.
My favorite moment was after the final out. Scott, Ginger, and I knew we had to leave the park at four o’clock to give ourselves time to eat and get to the airport; the Cubs were kind enough to get the game-ending double play at 3:58. We started to move to the aisles and no one else budged. They were all standing and cheering, but they weren’t going anywhere. Music began playing and people still stayed in their places like they were waiting until the postlude ended after worship. Then they began singing along. It took me a minute to get what they were singing:
When I got home last night, I looked up the song (to find the video at the end of this post) and recognized the voice as Steve Goodman, the man who wrote “The City of New Orleans” and “You Never Even Call Me By My Name,” among other things. Goodman died of leukemia in this thirties (1984) and the song has lived on, alongside of the Cubs’ hopes to one day win the World Series. In the fading light of a magnificent spring day in Chicago, we got to brush up against the history and hope that drives the team and the city, and they got to be a part of an indelible family memory for Ginger, Scott, and me.
On the plane ride home, I began reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. (Great read, by the way.) The first section of the book takes place in Italy, where she went, as she says, to do things: to eat and learn to speak Italian. In one of her conversations – with a guy named Luca Spaghetti – he told her about two Italian expressions:
- il bel far niente – the beauty of doing nothing
- l’arte d’arrangiarsi – the art of making something out of nothing
Of the second expression she continues the definition:
The art of turning a few simple ingredients into a feast, or a few gathered friends into a festival. Anyone with a talent for happiness can do this, not only the rich. (62)
I don’t know if plane tickets and Cubs tickets and the chance to see this painting count as simple ingredients, but I do know the chance to eat and play and love with our nephew and with one another made for one of the best days of my life. For many, many years to come we will say to one another, “Remember our day in Chicago?”
And we will remember what it was like to walk together, to see the paintings together, to eat together, all of it adding up to help us remember what it means to be family in the best sense of the word.