Holidays in Chicago – Part 1

Posted: July 7, 2011 in Love and Marriage
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My wife was an army brat, so she tells people she isn’t really from anywhere, but she considers Germany home.  She lived there for much of her childhood and teens and, almost from the time we started dating, she told me how much she wanted to take me there.  Of all the things she talked about, the thing she loved the very most was the Christkindlmarket, an open air market that was set up during the Christmas season.

About 10 years ago, she was surfing the internet and discovered that they actually bring a Christkindlmarket, with vendors from Nuremberg and other German towns, to downtown Chicago every year.  We still haven’t been to Germany, but our love affair with the city of Chicago began with our very first visit.  The Christkindlmarket runs from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Eve. and they set it up in Daley Plaza, right in the heart of Chicago.  We drove up on Thanksgiving Day that first year.

I’ll never forget the look on my wife’s face or her reaction when we arrived.  She said the sights and smells were exactly as she remembered, and she was absolutely glowing with excitement.  It was a magical trip, with more memories than I can possibly list here.  I took a picture of her in her new coat standing in front of the 80 foot Christmas tree and we had it made into an 8×10. It’s a photo that I treasure to this day.  When she moved out, she didn’t take it with her.  There are not many possessions that mean a whole lot to me, but that’s one of the few that it would break my heart to lose.

Not only did we experience the Christkindlmarket for the first time, but we also discovered Navy Pier.  Jutting out into Lake Michigan, Navy Pier holds a shopping mall, ferris wheel, children’s museum, and more.  There is a stage where plays and family oriented performances are held, and there is so much there that you could literally spend an entire day.

Of course, we spent time on Michigan Avenue, also known as the magnificent mile.  It’s especially spectacular at night with all the Christmas lights up.  Even though we are not big shoppers, the beauty and fame of the street make it a “must see” part of any trip to the windy city.  Just to the east, Grant Park runs for miles between Michigan Avenue and Lakeshore Drive, which literally follows the western shore of Lake Michigan.

Since that first visit, we have been to Chicago many times, but always during the Christkindlmarket.  Much like The Hill in St. Louis, it has always been an extremely special place for us.  Through the years, we have discovered additional pleasures like Pizzeria Uno, where you usually have to wait over an hour for your table, and we always do.  The pizza is so thick that it is impossible to eat much more than two slices, and it is now an every time stop when we’re in town.  We also love Fox and Obel, a gourmet food store and much more.

When the kids were in high school, we told them we would take them on a senior trip and they could pick anywhere they wanted to go.  They all picked Chicago.  Only two of them have actually taken the trip (others are still pending), but I guess they’ve seen how much we’ve loved it and they wanted to experience it for themselves.

We got to experience another dream come true when we took our son on his trip and that was seeing the Thanksgiving Day parade in person.  It was so cold that we couldn’t feel our feet before it was over, and we headed straight for the nearest Starbucks to revive ourselves, but we were there, almost at the front of the crowd at the corner of State and Washington.

That was also the trip that marred our nearly perfect memories of holiday trips to Chicago.  It was a couple of years ago, while I was having doubts about our marriage and our future.  I wasn’t the same person then that I had been before, and while the trip still had its good moments, it had some tension and problems too.  At one point, we were in a downtown Old Navy store and I was in a really foul mood.  I’m not even sure why, but I turned on my wife in the store and said some really hurtful things to her.

They were the same types of things that I sometimes said at home when I would get selfish and irritable.  They always caused her pain and confusion, because she never knew what she had done wrong.  Truthfully, there was usually nothing that she had done; she just caught the blame for my own issues.  The fact that it happened in Chicago during the holidays made it nearly unbearable.  We had a whole year to live with it, but we knew last year’s trip during the restoration tour was going to be spectacular…


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