Sweet Home Chicago


I just need to say it. 
Chicago is hands down my favorite place.

And before you go all but, like, where have you been, because you might just have nothing to compare to...let me stop you right there. I've been to Hawaii, Texas, Indiana, up the entire East Coast, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and more. I still like Chicago the best, mkay?
This weekend Jordan and I flew to Illinois for a wedding, and I planned out four days of travel to all my favorite spots both in my hometown (Winfield) and in downtown (Chicago). 

At one point on Saturday Jordan told me that this was my vacation and we were doing everything I wanted to do. I was offended at first...until I realized that he was right. We were doing everything I wanted to do. I choose not to let this make me feel like a horrible person, because really I'm just doing him a favor by letting him see all the amazing places I grew up loving. 

The last time I was in northern Illinois was December 2011 for my grandma's funeral. There obviously wasn't time or desire to visit my old haunts at that point because it was just about being with family. The last time I was in Chicago was the year before that--Christmas 2010--when Jordan asked me to marry him. The proposal itself was a huge shock. I don't think I'll ever live down my incessant, naive blabbering about Jordan's inability to hide anything from me. But even more special than the actual moment was the fact that Jordan chose to ask me in Chicago because he knows it is my favorite place.
This isn't a secret. Actually, it's one of the first things I tell people. I'm sure all my friends think I'm super annoying.

"I'm originally from Chicago," I say. 
Then they stare at me blankly and ask the inevitable follow-up question. "So...how did you end up in Oklahoma?"

Now don't get me wrong, Oklahoma is home, and I love living here, odd as that might sound to people who still think we drive around in covered wagons. Jordan is an Okie through and through, and if you try and say anything bad about his beloved state, he'll either start listing off the ridiculously long list of famous actors and artists and musicians who call Oklahoma their home state (Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks, James Marsden, Ron Howard, Walter Cronkite, Louis L'Amour, Mickey Mantle, and his great-uncle James Garner, to name a few) or just strongly consider punching you in the face.

(The OKC airport has a wall of windows with the names of all the famous Okies. 
I took a picture of this one because, as I said, we're kind of related.)

This weekend as I introduced Jordan to the best friends that I've known since sixth grade and pulled him around to my favorite spots and forced him to eat at my favorite restaurants, I realized something: he's never going to love it as much as I do. And although on the one hand that does make me sad, I also realized that that's okay. Because it's not even Chicago that I love so much. It's not the food or the entertainment or the ease of public transportation. It's the memories I have associated with all those places. That's what makes those places special and exciting for me, and I loved sharing that with Jordan. 

My family drove into Chicago on Christmas Eve every year. We went to the same Italian restaurant and got the same 2 dishes and laughed when my mom got mad at the waiter for trying to collect our plates before we were ready. Then we drove to the Lincoln Park Zoo and stopped for coffee and hot chocolate at the Starbucks on the corner.

Every summer my friends and I took the train downtown. We stopped for pizza at Giordano's or popcorn at Garrett's. We watched movies in the park and wove through millions of people at the Taste of Chicago. One time a few of us stayed overnight at my friend's aunt's apartment. We stayed up late and ate ice cream for breakfast and felt like grownups. I mean, as much as grownups who eat ice cream for breakfast.

One year, my family had season tickets to the Cubs. I drove my brother and I downtown for a game once, and we got lost, and I started crying and my brother was yelling and it took us 2 hours to get there when it should have only taken 45 minutes.

A few times I've sprinted to catch the last train back to Winfield. Lack of careful planning that I never took the blame for.

When I was in elementary school we went on class trips to the Shed Aquarium and the Art Museum. I saw the King Tut exhibit when it came to the Art Museum on its trip around the country. I've gone up in the Sears Tower to visit my friend who's worked there every summer since high school.

We went swimming in Lake Michigan and rode bikes along the beach. I remember listening to Nomar Garciaparra's very first game as a Cub. Everyone thought he was going to take us somewhere. My dad brought a radio down to the beach, and we sat on beach towels and cheered along with a thousand other cub fans.

Since moving south, we've made the drive to Chicago a few times. Six people crammed into our Suburban shouldn't make for a good time, but some of my favorite memories have been made on car trips.

So this weekend I took Jordan on a tour of everything I love about where I'm from. We danced with my best friends. We took the train downtown and went to a game at Wrigley. And we ate pizza and hot dogs all weekend.

He says he had a good time, and I hope he did. I wanted so much for him to see and feel what I do. But I guess in the end, Jordan was right: it kind of was my vacation after all. And I enjoyed every single minute in sweet home Chicago.

So tell me, what places do you love?
[And stay tuned for a post about our trip to Wrigley! Spoiler alert: Cubs win!]
Callie said...

You shouldn't feel bad about your vacation. I've been to Chicago several times, and I can agree with you that it is awesome. It is not, however, my favorite place. You know what's funny? I can think of several other people's favorite places: My mom loves Victoria, British Columbia and New York; Jacob's favorite place is probably Boston; and I have some good friends who positively love Colorado. I've been to all those places, and they are cool, but none of them are my favorite. I think my favorite place is somewhere I haven't been yet. I've never been off this continent, and I know that I will someday, and as soon as I do, then I will annoy you with my stories and memories of it. You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

Also, why am I listed as "unknown"? I logged in...

Also, "I" am Callie.

Stephanie said...

Oh my gosh, this makes me miss Chicago so much! I did not grow up there but I lived there for 7 years and I consider it my second hometown. I've only been able to take the fiance back once, and he had to work most of the time we were there in his law firm's Chicago office, so we're hoping to go back next year when he can really enjoy the city and take it all in. There's so much I want to do with him, though, that one trip probably isn't enough. :)