I flew into Chicago Thursday night. I am quite sure that Chris was glad to see me go - I was a crazy woman trying to pack on Wednesday...desperately trying to squeeze my jeans, sweaters, boots and wedding attire into a 22x14x9 carry on bag. I was bound and determined not to pay to check a bag for a 3 day trip. And so, that made me a little crazy. And added to the craziness was the fact that I hadn't flown in almost 4 years and so I was out of practice and that made me a little nervous, which created more crazy behavior. I felt sick most of the day on Thursday...trying to make sure that I didn't forget anything, that I had my boarding pass and ID, then finding a place to park, and walking 8 miles into the airport. (I'm exaggerating a little, it was really only 2 miles.) But, I made it.
I had some nut sitting next to me on the plane. I normally like to make small talk before take off. I would like to know a little something about the people around me when flying so that we feel bonded if we end up going down together. I would love it if everyone could stand up and introduce themselves, you know, say something about who they are, why they're flying, that sort of thing, before we taxi down the runway, but I don't think the airline peeps would go for that. It may just be the teacher in me that feels the need to know everyone's name.
Anyway, so there was this nut sitting next to me. I learned early on that he didn't speak English (this isn't the part that makes him a nut, I am fascinated by foreign languages), so there went the whole "getting to know you" part of my flight. When he pointed to his seat number on his boarding pass and the seat number listed overhead, I confirmed that he was sitting in the correct seat by giving him a big thumbs up. I figure that's some kind of positive, affirmative, international sign. Then we started taxiing down the runway and the nut (who happened to look just like Ray Romano...but he wasn't) starts in on some big praying. The sign of the cross. Eyes pinched tight. Lips moving frantically. And then we're in the air and he opens his eyes, looks to God and spreads open his hands, palms up, as if saying, "Thanks, Big Guy. Thanks."
At drink service, I ordered for him. He asked for "agua" and I translated that for the flight attendant. "He would like water, please." As if she didn't know what agua was. Its ok, I was just being a good seat mate. I turned, smiled, nodded and gave him another thumbs up. When I passed his drink over, I noticed that he was wearing a cross necklace. And not like a gold chain with a little pendant, but a hang down at your belly, HOLY CROSS, yowza-that's-a-big-necklace, kind of cross. It really stood out against his white shirt too. But, you know, whatever, to each his own. I am also a Christian, I just don't have a cross quite that big.
And then, before we knew it, we were making our descent into Chicago, circling Midway Airport for our turn to land. And he starts with the big praying again. Full on, making the sign of the cross, mumbling quickly and heatedly, oh my, lots of praying going on over there. I was also praying, but mine was more in my head, and maybe not so much praying as it was begging, please, God, don't let us crash, please, God, don't let us crash.
I kept trying to get a glimpse out the window. I love looking at the grid of lights when flying into Chicago at night. I can't even begin to count the number of flights in I have made like that. Almost my whole childhood and there is always this sense of relief, this feeling of coming home, the city of my family.
And then we didn't crash. We pulled into the gate, the lights in the cabin went on and the nutty neighbor and I both began collecting our belongings. It was then that I noticed that perhaps he wasn't nutty, just doing his job with all that praying. What I couldn't see throughout the flight because it was blocked by his black wool coat, was that he was wearing a priest collar. I wish that I had seen it earlier. It would've been good information to have, you know, if we went down in mid-flight, I could have just grabbed hold of him - I'm going with you. Of course, I would only want to go with him if he was a good priest and had left the alter boys alone. Just sayin. But, really, perhaps I wouldn't have been so tense if I had known. And I scolded myself for all the coo-coo comments I made to myself in my head about him.
I called my father to let him know that I had arrived and then waited outside for him to pick me up. The bitterness of the wind made my face feel like it was going to shatter into a million pieces while I stood there. I even think my way of greeting my father, as I jumped into his car, had some obscenities about the weather in it.
We stopped by Portillos (oh, be still my beating heart) for some beef sandwiches and then he delivered me to my Gram's house. We knew which condo was her's because she always waits in the window when she knows that people are coming over. Its a very helpful thing.
A major part of this trip (aside from my cousin's wedding) was the chance to use my fancy digital voice recorder to interview my Gram. We stayed up until midnight on Thursday (and Friday), talking like we might not ever get the chance to talk again.
Friday morning we ate breakfast at this really great little diner across the street. Then we came back to her house and got started on the interview. In between talking, we also went through pictures (lots and lots of pictures). So many pictures, in fact, that at almost 11pm that night I said, "I can't look at any more," exhausted. And I never want to stop looking at pictures. And we only made it 3/4 of the way through ONE box. ONE box, people. Ugh.
But, here's a sneak peek at some of the gems that I got to copy and return....
These people are my grandparents - Pat and Stella (who was known as Red at this particular time in her life - she is a natural red head) - at my great aunt and uncle's wedding in 1949. My Gram was a 19 year old married lady. Papa was only 18 (oo-la-la, a younger man). They had already been married for a year at this point. They actually went to my Papa's senior prom, married.
Can you believe the waist on her??? And this next picture...check out her shoes! She's such a fashion plate! (And that's my great-grandfather standing in the corner of the picture.)
And my Papa, he wasn't so shabby himself. I wonder if he had any idea in his head during these pictures that he would one day have 6 children, who would then give him 19 grandchildren and, at current count, 8 great grandchildren. He's hot stuff, though, isn't he?
Part II of the trip will be posted, um, well, sometime later!