My kids don't have school this week for Presidents' Day, so my ex and I decided to do a one-on-one weekend in which we each had one kid Saturday through Monday. I got the 7-year-old, and decided to take him to see the wardrobe that inspired C.S. Lewis to write the Narnia books, which is at the Wade Center at Wheaton College, just west of Chicago. He'd mentioned several times that he wanted to see it, so I knew he'd be excited.
We drove to Chicago on Saturday (it took about 3 1/2 hours, most of which my son spent telling me jokes like "Why did Tigger stick his face in the toilet?" "Because he was looking for Pooh! Get it, Mom? Hahahahahahaha!"), and went to the Museum of Science and Industry. He loved it and ran around looking at everything for a few hours. We were fascinated by the submarine, and the weather installation, and the space stuff. It amazes me how cheerful he is, almost all the time. I often feel like I share more interests with his older brother, but I appreciate so much how willing the 7-year-old is to try new things and just let things unfold.
Through a series of misunderstandings we ended up staying in a hotel instead of with a friend that night (thank goodness for discount sites), and he was enchanted by the hotel. It was in the Loop, and we walked around for a bit and he said that Chicago "was like New York but not," which is true. He was baffled that taxis in Chicago don't have to be yellow, and wondered how people know they're taxis if they're not yellow.
The next morning we took the El up to Ann Sather on Belmont for Swedish pancakes (I have to go to Ann Sather every time I'm in Chicago), and then came back downtown, checked out of the hotel, and took a cab (it happened to be yellow) to the Planetarium. We had discussed the aquarium, but the line was so ridiculously long as we passed that we decided just to do the Planetarium. First we checked out Lake Michigan and went down to the water's edge to check out the icebergs in the water. Then it was Planetarium time. He loved it, and could have spent the entire day there playing with the exhibits. We saw one of the movies in the domed theater, but he was much more into the exhibits (and the pieces of asteroids), and we wore ourselves out. We stopped and got hot dogs from the stand across from the aquarium, then hopped a bus on Lake Shore drive to get back to the hotel to get our bags, then drove to Wheeling.
One of my oldest friends lives in Wheeling, and we stayed with her and her son. The boys had never met before, but started giggling and wrestling almost from the first moment they met. We had pizza and a lot of talking and some tequila and some more talking. I'd lost track of this friend for about 15 years and then we found each other again, and just picked up a few years ago like it was nothing. I love friendships like that, and am so lucky to have known her then and to know her now, too.
This morning my boy and I drove to Wheaton, had breakfast at the Seven Dwarfs Restaurant (excellent cinnamon french toast), and then went to the Wade Center. He walked in reverently, looked at the wardrobe, and his eyes got big. When I showed him that he could open the wardrobe and look inside he was amazed. The Wade Center also has the desk at which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, but my son isn't into Tolkien (yet?) so he wasn't interested in the desk.
After the wardrobe visit we drove home (and got stuck in traffic after what turned out to have been a horrible accident involving fatalities on 94 East near Kalamazoo). On the way home my sweet boy told me he had "an idea" and could we stop at the grocery store. So we did, and he bought mushrooms and shredded cheese, and he came home and cut holes in the mushrooms, stuffed them with salt and the cheese, and then sauteed them in olive oil! He handed me a plate of them and said, "Here's your fun guy!" and then laughed like a maniac.
I am very sleepy. And happy. We need to go to Chicago more often. Our kind of town.