The plan was to spend a couple of days in Chicago exploring which is technically what happened, but it’s the other things that also happened which make this story worth telling.
Amazingly we somehow drove into Chicago hitting no traffic whatsoever, which gave us more time to grumble about the number of tolls you are forced to pay on the way into the city. Why Chicago, do you not inform people about the price of each toll until you are actually at the tollbooth paying?
We breezed into town after spending the moderate sized toll fortune and made our way for the Airbnb we rented in the Wrigleyville neighborhood, which is you guessed it, near Wrigley Stadium. That area of Chicago was familiar to me and I was happy to spend more time there.
Things were going smoothly. We hit no traffic; arrived right at check-in time, easily parked in a lot directly across the street, and the L-train was only 1-block away. In hindsight, this should have been my clue. Things were going too smoothly, how did I not see it coming?
We spent our first night in Chicago at a live Moth Storyteller event. As it turns out, Ani was the only 3-year-old in attendance and she did not go unnoticed by the host who pointed out her “sweet little face” to the audience from the stage. The three of us sat and listened as one at a time, the name of the next person was being drawn to come up on stage and tell a story. My name was not chosen that night and I couldn’t decide if I felt a sense of relief or disappointment. Either way, we had a good time and hopped on the Red Line to head back to the apartment. The next day we set our sights for the Institute of Art-Chicago.
I envisioned Ani wanting to spend hours in the Art Museum because she herself is an Artista and has a kiddo book about VanGogh paintings, a couple of which would be at this museum. What is that phrase about the best-laid plans? From the moment we walked in (after we paid the entrance fee that is) she was whining and pulling the classic, I’m so tired and couldn’t possibly walk another step toddler routine. So we were those people carrying a nearly 4-year-old around as if her legs were broken, but it bought us some more time.
On the upside, standing in front of the VanGogh painting of his bedroom with Ani was pretty great. As we looked at it she said, “Two chairs the color of fresh butter”, which was a quote from the VanGogh book she has. We looked at a few other VanGogh paintings and talked about all the bright colors and how thick the paint was. Then the moment was over, back to being tired and whiny. It sure was a nice few minutes though.
We decided to throw in the towel rather than continue pushing through the Museum and instead hung out in Maggie Daley and Millennium Parks. The playgrounds of Maggie Daley park kept Ani excited and gave her the ability to walk again… she’s healed!
It’s not a complete trip to Millenium Park without a visit to “The Bean”, which is officially named, Cloud Gate. We just so happened to be standing there when a couple got engaged. Bystanders clapped and cheered while the couple hugged and laughed. Timing is a funny thing I reckon.
Our day had been filled up with exploring and so had our senses. I think we all felt over stimulated and were ready for a brief retreat at the apartment for dinner before walking to get ice cream at Oberwies for dessert.
The three of us were sharing our ice cream when the super friendly employee walked over and handed Ani a balloon, which is always a welcomed gift for any toddler. From that point forward we developed a high-tech game where we would smack the balloon to hit one another in the head. It all depended on the fact that the balloon was securely anchored to Ani’s water bottle. Oh, the fun times were flowing.
Ani wanted to keep the good times rolling as we left the ice cream shop headed back for the apartment. She wanted to hold her water bottle so that her dad could continue hitting the balloon as we walked along. What could go wrong?
About a half block from the ice-cream shop Ian took a good swing at the balloon and it abruptly disconnected from the ribbon it was tied to. In an instant, the balloon went floating up into the air as they do, at an alarming rate of climb.
Ani let out a sound that neither of us had ever heard out of her before. It was a mixture of Chewbacca and Macaulay Caulkin in the Home Alone movie. She was yelling out, grab it! Can you grab it?!?! My balloooooon!!! Ggghhhhaaa!!!! We were jumping and trying to somehow grab hold of it but in a matter of seconds, it was floating above the buildings.
Her meltdown was incredible.
She is always the king of calm; the master of mellowness, but the loss of this balloon was monumentally tragic in every cell of her body. I couldn’t help but laugh because her reaction was so, so, so funny. Her expressions combined with the crazy sounds of panic and helplessness made for quite a display on the street. It just now occurred to me that this could’ve been considered performance art… we should have put out a hat as this was unfolding, but I digress.
Here was a “teachable” moment that we could have said, “well, this is what happens when a balloon comes off of its string outside, sorry about your luck kid.” But instead we showed her mercy and walked the half a block back to the ice cream shop.
I carried her into the shop as tears the size of watermelons slid down her cheeks. The super friendly employee saw us walk in and as I approached the counter I simply said, “we had a disaster happen out on the street”. He’d obviously seen this play out before because he said balloon? Then looked at Ani and said I’ll go get you another balloon, no problem.
He handed her the new balloon and you could see it was like replacing a beloved pet with a new one. It fills the void, but couldn’t possibly take the original’s place.
This time before we left the ice cream shop the mood was much more serious. She wanted to ensure that we secured the balloon to the water bottle again, only this time there would be no playing around. She would hold the balloon like a newborn baby for several blocks while I held onto the water bottle it was attached to. Ian was no longer to be trusted with any balloon related tasks. There was no smiling on the way home, only concentration as she navigated the streets of Chicago with her balloon until we were safely in the apartment.
She fell asleep looking at her balloon, (which was attached to the nightstand) as I assured her it would still be there in the morning.
For some inexplicable reason, I decided to sleep next to her that night, which is not something I generally volunteer for since she sleeps like a starfish clock, appendages extended and rotating hourly. Nevertheless, I endured the flails and kicks of the night until the early morning hours when she sporadically sat up in bed making a weird sound. I thought she was thirsty, but she didn’t want water. She was acting strange and coughing in just such a way that I thought, uh-oh.
I grabbed her and ran for the toilet just in time for the puking to begin. She was half asleep and so was I; we were like two drunkards trying to play basketball. Soon after, Ian joined the party just as confused and disoriented as we were. The next several hours turned into Pukefest 2018 as everything came up and out of that little munchkin like an active volcano.
Being sick is one thing, but being sick on the road is another. We had to check out of this Airbnb by 11am and were supposed to then drive the 5 hours back home. With a volcano eruption every 20 minutes for several hours I could only imagine it would get worse once we were in a moving car. And who wants to be in a car when you’re sick anyhow? It makes a bad situation worse.
Nevertheless, we packed up and used every last minute until 11am to buy Ani some more time before jumping in the car. I bought Tupperware bins; we crossed our fingers and started driving.
I don’t know how but amazingly she fell asleep and stayed asleep for most of the drive. She didn’t puke in the car and we managed to make it home without incident.
Perhaps you glossed over the monumental achievement that was stated in that last paragraph so I’ll reiterate; we made it all-the-way-home without any puking in the car!
I’m convinced this was a Christmas Miracle. What other explanation is there? Puking mayhem for hours on end, then you get into a car with said puker (a child, no less) and that is when they stop puking? No way does that happen!
That day, the day of Pukefest 2018 was also Winter Solstice so perhaps we were cosmically aligned for just such a freakish moment of luck but either way, a lack of puking was the best gift that I never knew I wanted.
P.S. This leaves out the not so miracle part of the story where Ian and I both came down with the same stomach flu one day later and “survived” Christmas more than celebrated it. Like I said, a lack of puking is the gift one never realizes that they always wanted.