Monday, August 29, 2016

Billy Joel (Traffic) Drives Me Crazy

That I totally enjoyed the Billy Joel concert in Chicago Friday (August 26) goes without saying. He is an incredible entertainer – as are all the musicians in his band. Of course, I have such a huge crush on him that it would take something truly horrendous to dampen my enthusiasm.

That I totally hated driving (by myself) through Chicago traffic to get to the concert also goes without saying. You know that “something truly horrendous” I mentioned earlier? The drive from West Branch to downtown Chicago nearly did me in.

I thought maybe getting lost cruising past the Quad Cities (again), a construction-zone traffic standstill, AND a closed exit to the last rest stop for 30 miles (!!!) might have used up my bad traffic karma before I even got close to the Windy City.

I was wrong.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the residents of the greater Chicago area, and anyone else hindered by my poor traffic-coping skills. Again.

After the potty/exit closed emergency, the drive was pretty uneventful until I reached the outskirts of Aurora, Illinois. (Although I did cuss myself for not purchasing an I-Pass. Frickin' tollway.) Traffic had just started to pick up, and I had just started to practice my deep breathing exercises, when I realized that in Chicago, 5 o'clock rush hour traffic starts at 4, and 4 o'clock rush hour traffic starts at 3:30, and it was currently 3:20. I began to wonder if delaying my departure in order to clean the kitchen counter had really been worth it.

My deep breathing turned to deep cursing when I noticed an Escalade riding my tail. I glared as he finally passed me, then realized that I was riding the tail of the Lexus ahead of me. Ooops.

Remember my love of frickin' tollways? I had just traveled across three lanes of traffic to reach the far left lane, when I had to make my way back to the extreme right lane to prepare for yet another cash-only transaction.

But wait! Six successful lane changes later I realized the toll was only for the exit. Which I was not taking. I decided to stick to the middle lanes from then on, just in case.

Up ahead, an electronic sign offered a helpful traffic update: Downtown 37 min. Really? Already? That long?

Yeah, no. Not so much. After another toll booth – for reals this time – and a good 20 minutes, the next electronic sign announced Downtown 30 min. Time. Had stood. Still.

Eventually I reached the I-290 exit, keeping to the left, as my Googlemap directions said. But I was the only one. After being in 4 lanes of heavy traffic, it was a little eerie suddenly seeing empty lanes. Had I made a wrong turn?

Then traffic stopped. Obviously I was right where I was supposed to be.

Good news! According to the next electronic sign, it would only be 10 more minutes to what I thought was my exit.

Ten minutes? On Venus maybe. I could have read War and Peace in the time it took me to get to the next exit. Heck, I could have written War and Peace.

I decided this was good news! As slow as we were going, I shouldn't be able to miss my exit. Then the traffic clog broke free and we were flying! Or going 25 mph, whichever.

Then we were stopping. Again.

This was still good news, because I had finally reached the exit to Lower Wacker Drive. And – get this! – “lower” doesn't refer to north or south, but “lower” than street level! (Who knew?) Suddenly I was driving through a narrow, 4-lane tunnel, which was really cool, but it was kind of dark and there were stoplights and traffic and I couldn't find the cross streets and I didn't know where I was and then WOW! A boat! I was next to the Chicago River and now I was turning onto Lower Michigan Ave (also lower than street level) and the next thing I knew I was turning onto Grand and I was at street level and then I was pulling into the parking garage and checking in to the hotel and getting ready and walking to the corner to catch the red line L-train to . . . .
Trust me. We shared a moment.

OH CRAP! I couldn't remember where Wrigley Field was!

Officer Posey of the Chicago Police Department very patiently explained how to buy my train tickets (return trip, too), and which train to get on and I practiced more deep breathing as I waited in line for 30 minutes to buy my tickets and then I was on the train, and chatting with all these other nice, middle-aged women, and we all got off the train at Addison and we were at Wrigley Field!

The lights went down, the lights went up and there he was! Billy Joel, center stage, sitting at his piano, hands flying across the keyboard, singing and joking. And that grin! Oh gosh! I swooned because I'm pretty sure I made I contact with him. And gee, isn't he just adorable?

And all that anxiety about traffic and getting lost and Lower Wacker was forgotten, because, wow, what a great show!


Then it was time to head home, and I headed out of Chicago for Iowa.

Via Milwaukee.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Finding Her Wings

There are boxes, bags, totes, crates and drawers piled in my living room, garage, and by the front door.

The Princess is moving to college.

I can see the top of her dresser. She has a dresser? Why were her clothes always on the floor? I can see the floor in her room. She has carpet?

I knew this day was coming, obviously. But it seemed so far off.

I blinked, and it was here.

She hasn't asked me for help and I haven't offered. I did not want to intrude, to boss. Something told me this was something she needed to do for herself.

So when she packs the ridiculously high, sparkly prom-dress heels, I don't say anything. I raise an eyebrow, because, really? But I don't say anything.

I figure this is part of her journey. We all have to learn that less is more, or so I've been told. Not that I believe it, either. This is something she needs to do, something she needs to learn.

I am so proud. And slightly annoyed. She could call to get the utilities for the apartment hooked up, but still needs me to make her dentist and hair appointments?

And proud.

Distracted by the growing, and well organized piles, I gave her the puppy dog face once today. I let the mask fall, let my bottom lip stick out, let my eyes grow wide, just long enough to see that flash of recognition on her face. I quickly stuck my tongue out and crossed my eyes. Just kidding, I pretend. I turn away, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. I do that a lot.

I remember my mom sending me to college (pre-texting), sending me to grad school five hours away (for a short time). She wanted me to stretch my wings, to soar, but was there to welcome me back. I miss her. I miss her as much as I want The Princess and The Prince to go, to find themselves, to stretch, to soar, to fly.


To remember.

I love them.

The Princess is moving only 30 minutes away. But she's no longer right down the hall. She's no longer right around the corner.

She's been to camps, conferences, and retreats.

Why is this different?

A friend who has successfully fledged four children admitted to being misty eyed after dropping off her daughter – the youngest and her only little girl – at college. And she admits to feeling a bit silly, knowing she was only 15 minutes away.

It's not the mileage, it's the symbolism, I think.

This is what we've raised them to do, my friend tells me. Other Moms – Moms with fledglings and near fledglings and hatchlings and grand-hatchlings – repeat the sentiment.

This is what we've prepared them for.

But who prepares us?


The Prince, as if by unspoken understanding (then again, siblings share without speaking), has rediscovered a tolerance for my presence. (Moms being the un-coolest of the un-cool when it comes to teenage boys asserting their independence, even more so than for teenage girls.) He lets me take him to McDonald's, lets me pay (OK, that part's not new), and even lets me sit with him – in public – and talks to me – in public. Although not when his friends are around.

He helps me move the final truck-load, despite initial resistance. He arranges the load, relishing the role of Man of the House, using half a roll of duct tape to secure a garbagebag-covered laundrybag, full of clothes. He smiles and shrugs, knowing I will laugh.

He is in charge of F-I-S-H Homie Quan the Second, so named because we didn't want to tip off the C-A-T, who, as it turns out couldn't care less. The Prince takes his job very seriously, transferring F-I-S-H to the transport cup and holding F-I-S-H's temporary home during the move.

He has looked forward to this day; looked forward to expanding into her room or at least to the end of her encroaching on his already miniscule room. No more crap piled in his doorway – although I leave one slim box destined for recycling. Just because.

The Princess has been his tormentor, his ally, and most importantly, the one to share and deflect parental attention. The Princess enjoyed three years as an only child, now it's his turn to take center stage.

He rolls his eyes. No. He does not want an F-I-S-H. The C-A-T, which his sister lobbied so hard for, is responsibility enough

Tonight, the piles have been moved. The last I saw them, they filled a new room. I took a long look at the carpet, knowing it would be the last time I saw it so clearly. 

The house seems quiet and empty – not just because The Prince is at band camp and The King is away on business.

The cat prowls restlessly. His favorite hiding place – under The Princess' bed – is gone. He has been a fixture in her room these last few weeks. Whether that was because of the construction going on downstairs, or because he sensed a change, a need, is unclear. He is on the stairs now, watching the door. Waiting for someone.


When we left, the girls were laughing, struggling to hook up the Wi-Fi, meeting their neighbors, making plans for tonight.

The Prince and I ate a late lunch, talking Olympics and music and motorcycles and cars.

This is what we've prepared them for.

This is what they've prepared us for.