Midwest Weekend

Aunt Martha Drinks Cocoa
Chicago, USA
January 15, 2007

It's been a whirlwind weekend visit to the Midwest.

After arrival into Chicago Friday evening I took an L from Midway Airport to Aunt Kathy's Oak Park condo. I had only a few hours to say hello, drop my bags off, then take dinner before heading right back to Midway to meet Aunt Martha.

Martha flew up from Nashville (where she was transferred six months ago) to spend the weekend with old friends. She planned her trip to coincide with the same weekend I would be in town, it's been a year-and-a-half since we last saw each other. She and I stayed out well past midnight, having late-night Chinese food with childhood friends of hers from the Philippines.

Saturday, I borrowed Aunt Kathy's car to drive out to Indiana. My visits with Grampa often consist of long stretches without much conversation: just playing video games together on his Playstation 2 or watching TV. Over this visit Aunt Kathy specifically wanted me to record Grampa recounting his experiences over World War II. I was surprised--and fascinated--to hear him speaking for over three hours about his years stationed in North Africa and Italy during the war. His description of a nightclub he used to frequent in Casablanca was, "Pretty similar to the one in the movie, but without any Krauts actually around."

I recorded Grampa's tales by using a low-end MP3 player. Hearing what he had to say made me decide to do a better job of it the next time I come calling. If I visit again this next Christmas I hope to make a project of it, bringing better quality recording equipment.

I've been surprised by how familiar everything has been over this visit. Granted, I've been making the same journey back from China each of the past four years, but I'm surprised that my sense of direction still holds. I haven't once had to consult a map to walk the blocks from the L station to Aunt Kathy's condo or figure which route to take from the toll road to get to Grampa's house.

On Sunday I drove from Grampa's house back up to Chicago, managing to squeeze time in with Yun-Tzu that afternoon. She's just moved up to Lincoln Park, we started with lunch at a nearby Middle Eastern restaurant, Aladdin Falafel House. She's been well--still studying in graduate school with no immediate plan to go back to Taiwan. Her English is a lot better than my Chinese, though we would speak occasionally in either. I was still driving Aunt Kathy's car around, so Yun-Tzu asked if I would take her grocery shopping. That was fine by me: we'd already eaten so it seemed a good way to hang out together longer without wasting money at a coffeehouse or elsewhere, just to have a place to pass the time.

After hitting the local Jewel, then dropping Yun-Tzu off with several sacks of groceries, I drove down to Union Station to pick Aunt Martha up for one last meeting. Again, it was more a matter of just hanging out, spending time together, than going out to experience some hot place around town. Martha and I found a little hot dog stand with indoor seating north of the Loop. We each ordered a cup of hot chocolate and hung out for an hour catching up before she had to head back to Union Station.

At the end of a long day I drove back to Oak Park. Aunt Kathy had already eaten. I wasn't hungry. So, we just chatted in her living room, she knitting while I packed my bags.

It's Monday morning and I am now at O'Hare, ready for the first leg of my flights getting me back to China.