Christmastime in Chitown

When I told Ty that I had never been to Chicago during Christmastime, he rolled his head back and groaned with a sort of nostalgic ecstasy.

"Ooooooh. Oh. Oh, man. We're going. Yeah, we're definitely going."

A week and a half later, we found ourselves on State Street, whose sidewalks were bedecked with evergreen clippings and red berries. The Macy's—which we referred to as Marshall Field's, of course—displayed its holiday finest. Inside we went, to the Walnut Room and to the Great Tree, which sparkled and twinkled red, purple, blue, green, silver. Inside, too, was Santa's workshop, and Frango Chocolates, and multi-colored lights and Christmas music and shopping bags and heavily-perfumed air. Outside, the holiday windows were crowded, and children pointed at the scenes, pressed their noses to the glass.

We visited the Christkindlmarket, too, on Daley Plaza. There, we bought mugs of spiked cider, and cups of goulash, and plates of potato pancakes. We were like sheep; tightly packed and unable to move, unable to balance our plates of salty goodness anywhere but above our heads. It was wonderful.

In the afternoon, we met Ty's dad and younger siblings at Lincoln Park. We quickly jaunted through the conservatory before heading into the zoo itself. As night fell, the park became an illuminated wonderland. Trees were outlined with thousands upon thousands of little colored bulbs, and Ty and I squinted at the enclosures, just barely outlining the humps of a camel, the legs of an ostrich.

Chicago has been on my mind quite a bit, as of late. Finishing Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City just before our trip put me in a "Chicago mood" as well. I wish I could explain how, and why, it is so easy to fall in love with Chicago. (Even when you miss two Metra trains in a row and end up staying in the city three hours longer than you expected.) For now, I leave you with the words of Larson himself:

" … I knew little about [Chicago] until I began work on [The Devil in the White City]. Place has always been important to me, and one thing today's Chicago exudes, as it did in 1893, is a sense of place. I feel in love with the city, the people I encountered, and above all the lake and its moods, which shift so readily from season to season, day to day, even hour to hour. I must confess a shameful secret: I love Chicago best in the cold." [1]

[1] Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. New York: Random House, 2003. Print. Page 432.

Poinsettia Show at Garfield Park Conservatory

The conservatory was warm, and humid, and it took several minutes for the lens on my camera to clear. My glasses, too. Almost immediately, I felt my skin dampen beneath my winter coat. The coat, plaid and woolen, was perfect for outside. But inside, in a balmy, bright paradise, it was suffocating. I wore it nonetheless, and never bothered to unbutton it as I strolled past orchids, palms, air plants, and poinsettias. The conservatory was bedecked with red and white lights, the strands weaving through shrubs and flowers, and up and up and up the trunks of trees. An older man sat in a chair near the waterfall, monotonously watching the koi and nodding off. A young dark-haired woman sat on a bench near yet another pond, scribbling in a black leather journal. There were a few children among the plants, pointing and yelling, "Look! Look! Look!" Most, though, were in the conservatory's front room, where a tall tree and hundreds of poinsettias were arranged with frosted delicacy. Here, the children pointed at small trains and tiny villages, candy canes and elegantly wrapped gifts. I wished for their innocence and eagerness, and reached into my pocket, searching for a peppermint to calm my nostalgia. I found but a cough drop and, shrugging, unwrapped it anyway. 'Tis the season. 

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