As my children fumbled to find the words to the National Anthem at the Chicago White Sox game last week, they glared at me silently asking “why are we the only people that don’t know this song?” I glared back silently sending mental messages about the fact that they are fluent in Italian, they know how to cheer at a German soccer match, and they have attended mass in Europe’s greatest cathedrals.
Eventually, they relaxed and the power of the moment overwhelmed us all. As we stood there, with our hands on our hearts, cloaked in the stormy mid-western sky, we knew we were home.
Each day we spent in Chicago, the rooted, delicious, down-home, artistic city gave us a warm welcome home. Our cousins pointed out who lived in what house and for how many generations. I realized people have not only grown up together in some of these neighborhoods, their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents grew up together too. There is a social fabric that is tightly woven beyond anything I have experienced in an American city.
As we moved from tailgate parties to backyard barbecues, dining on the best hot dogs I have ever tasted, the feeling that we were in the USA was stronger than ever. The symphony of cheers from sports fans peppered the air. We heard hoopla as the Blackhawks progressed toward winning the Stanley Cup while we were watching the Cubs play from a rooftop party in Wrigleyville. There was so much to celebrate every day.
From the free Lincoln Park Zoo to the Museum of Science and Industry, the opportunity to learn new things was around every corner. As they gnawed on pork chop sandwiches and polish hot dogs with a dusting of celery salt, they talked of their favorite ice creams shops their cousins toured with them around the city. From Rainbow Cone in Beverly to Zarlengo’s in Chicago Heights, the trip got sweeter every day.
From where we stand on our journey, I can’t imagine ever feeling as settled as the people we met in Chicago. As we drove away, heading west, we wondered where we may call home again someday. For now, it was a gift to experience a true homecoming in the midst of a great city. I think President Obama spoke to the sturdiness we felt when he said, “Let me tell you something. I’m from Chicago. I don’t break.”