We flew into Chicago to be with family for the holidays. We stayed a short weekend with some of our chosen families and have since headed off to be with our given families across the Midwest. It was way too short, but we are thankful that we could be in our beloved city even if for only a brief while. As soon as we landed, we headed straight for Portillo’s lest you doubt our priorities. When we lived downtown, we were blocks from Portillo’s on Ontario and ate there almost weekly. After church, we’d drive through, pick up our grease, buy the Sunday Tribune from the man at the corner of Ontario & LaSalle and head to our condo to enjoy. Biting into the Italian beef, Polish with grilled onions, crispy onion rings, and crinkly fries was a sure sign that we were home.
Of course, it is not just the food we miss but the outstanding people. There is nothing like friends with whom you can jump right into deep life issues with even after four months apart. Well, I should say that goes for the women who discussed marital stresses, challenges in raising children, and other topics of the heart. From what we could hear over on the men’s side, the topics were quite different: car batteries and farts.
For three nights straight, the kids got to have super fun slumber parties. They were so excited. We were just glad that they actually managed to get some sleep. Our friends made us Shon’s famous homemade spaghetti sauce and we also enjoyed Lou Malnati’s Malnati salad, THE BEST.
We were glad the timing worked out that we could celebrate Cassie’s dohl (Korean 1st birthday celebration) and catch up with a handful of wonderful friends there. Up until after the party, we had spent our first 24 hours in the suburbs. Ethan kept asking me where the Willis (ahem, SEARS) Tower was. He was so concerned that he had not seen it yet that he asked if it had been blown up (??). We finally headed into the city limits. The boys were so tired from travel and partying that they slept in the car and missed this beautiful site.
To be kid-friendly we met with friends at Barnes & Noble for coffee. Monica brought me macarons from Vanille as well as her delicious homemade rosemary almond sandies. I have yet to find French macaron cookies in our new town, let alone ones that can match the sweet goodness of Vanille. They were more heaven in my mouth! Our coffee date was too short but apparently too long for Ethan’s friend Parker who was texting me messages about how late we were to their house. It was so cute. What better way to be reunited than with a dinner of take out from Great Seas?! Gangpongee, jajangmyun, mehwondubu, tangsooyook, gahkduki, and more, got in our bellies! Thanks to our gracious hosts and family for hosting and feeding us with love. After stuffing ourselves silly, we had Angie’s famous homemade molten chocolate cake along with homemade caramels with sea salt.
Breakfast was homemade blueberry lemon rolls and a breakfast casserole. Angie is a domestic goddess and fully responsible for our extra winter padding!
Walking into church Sunday morning, I did catch a lump in my throat. It wasn’t even a usual Sunday service, but just being there was something. Like we had felt the entire weekend, we were comfortably home but at the same time fully aware that we were also visitors simply visiting. We were in such familiar territory but only temporarily. We even sat on the other side of the sanctuary Sunday morning and not our usual pew. It seemed appropriate. We enjoyed lunch with our former community group, and Mike got to eat his favorite soup in the whole world (#14) at Urban Belly.
The kids and I had another meet up at Barnes & Noble after lunch where Jenn and I caught up and perhaps naively thought our boys would do the same. Rather than talk to one another about life, they roamed around the kids’ section and bonded over a couple of books, stuffed dinosaurs and not as much talking as their moms. But at their ages, that was hopefully just as good. Then the kids and Dads had pizza and movie night while the ladies got our afternoon tea on at The Drake.
We had more morning homemade goodies from our Martha Stewart friend the next day, and then we were off. We sadly missed many other loved ones, both food and friends! But we managed to hit downtown again to run an errand, enjoy our old stomping grounds, and of course, eat at Potbelly’s.
Yes, it was cold. Yes, there was traffic. Yes, it is expensive. But Chicago will always be my kind of town. A pitstop was refreshing. It refueled us in some ways. However, it left me both satisfied and unsatisfied. We did not get to eat everywhere. We did not get to see everyone. And even those we saw, we did not get to linger as long as we would have liked. We did again recognize the places we have come and the Faithfulness that has brought us to where we are. We can only be grateful. I actually miss the sun and the mountains. I know richness awaits us in our new setting as well. What an incredible ride we are on, and we look forward to the journey and all the pitstops along the way.