I have never been much for grilling; I live in a high-rise, I hate the taste of char on my food, and most importantly, I don't own a grill. As a result, I commemorated the passing of Memorial Day weekend with house guests instead of the traditional cookout. Several weeks ago I had gotten an email from my second-cousin Julie, who was planning a vacation to Chicago. I offered to let them stay with me, helped them with their vacation planning, and when Saturday rolled around, I found myself entertaining Julie, her husband Brian, and their children Max and Cecelia.
On their first day in town, we headed for the Shedd Aquarium, where we were confronted with a line of epic proportions. The queue snaked out the building, across the plaza in front of the museum, and around the side of the structure. It was daunting to say the least. Instead of wasting our day waiting, we took a detour to the Field Museum, where things were oddly quiet, considering they were debuting "Robo-Sue: The T. Rex Experience" and Waking the T. Rex 3-D: The Story of Sue, and Sue Richardson, the paleontologist who discovered the eponymous dinosaur remains, was making personal appearances and signing autographs at the museum all weekend. We walked right in without having to wait at all, and the kids had a fantastic time, especially Max, who ran excitedly from exhibit to exhibit, barely able to decide where to devote his attention. I can remember when I was his age, and the Field Museum seemingly held unlimited potential for exploration and excitement. It was the Field that kindled my lifelong interest in museums as a career path, and it's always nice to be reminded of the potency of that initial enthusiasm.
Sunday, I caught some extra sleep while my guests headed to Millennium Park to play in the Crown Fountain, and then to Wrigley Field to catch the Cubs playing the Cardinals. Given that their family hails from St. Louis, catching a game between their home team and such bitter rivals was a particular treat. Afterwards, Dad swung by on his way home from Springfield, where he had been attending the graduation of my cousin Matt with Mom, to grab dinner with his relatives at the Park Grill.
We spent a pleasant evening dining al fresco on the plaza, catching up about various happenings within the extended family before heading on a walk through the park. Dad regaled his cousins with stories about the construction of Cloud Gate, the Pritzker Pavilion, and Millennium Park at large, and the kids enjoyed playing with their reflections in the Bean.
Living in the city, there are times when I start to take all of Chicago's attractions for granted. After visiting the Field Museum back in March, I was feeling a little blasé about going again so soon, and some of the novelty of taking self-portraits with Cloud Gate has worn off over the years, but part of the joy of having guests is that you get to re-experience Chicago through someone else's eyes. Things seem exciting and fresh again, and the visit becomes more than the opportunity to re-connect with family, but a chance to re-connect with the city as well.