During my trip to Portland a few weeks ago, I sat next to someone at the conference I attended, and we struck up a conversation. She was from Portland, and I asked her if she ever took it for granted that she lived in such an incredible place (as in, access to nature/mountains/rivers/the ocean, an eco-friendly city with an amazing bike/coffee/food scene, etc. etc.). She told me, yes, absolutely, she loved it, and she took it for granted until she moved away for a year to live across the country — she missed it when she was gone, and couldn’t wait to get back.
And then she asked me: “So what do you love about Chicago?”
And I laughed a little, because it’s such a funny conversation to have with people who live in Illinois. Most people don’t really love it. They’re here because their family is here, or their job is here, and they can’t wait to get out. Marty and I live in flat-as-a-pancake suburbia, and while we love our community, our neighborhood, and our town, we miss mountains, we miss hiking and boating, and we have to drive really really far if we want to get to the ocean on vacation.
However, we DO love Chicago. We love it!! There’s no city like it. I’ve lived here my whole life and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface, but we love so much about it. The Art Institute. The architecture. The Riverwalk. Navy Pier. Maggie Daley Park. Incredible orchestras playing in Millenium Park all. summer. long. The beaches, the food, the shopping. Buckingham Fountain. The museums (the MUSEUMS).
I was at the Adler planetarium with a friend last year who had recently moved to Illinois from Iowa, and she mentioned that she had been to the Adler before. “Really?” I said. “Yep,” she replied. “We’d leave in the morning, drive the five hours to get here, spend the day, and drive five hours back.” I was shocked — all that way, just for a day at the planetarium? And then I realized (hello!) — not everyone has this kind of thing in their backyard. You can’t just hop in your car, drive for a bit, spend a few hours at a world-class museum, and be home before dinner. We are ridiculously spoiled.
Add to that the fact that we homeschool our kids, and it’s pretty amazing. I take my kids into the city as much as I can! We take advantage of free museum days and just pay for parking (plus, I can’t wait until Lily can walk a little farther and we can just hop on the train!). I try and get us to as many museums as I can, especially in the winter months when there’s not much going on and we’re inside most days!
(Here are a few pictures from our trip to the Field Museum, one of my favorites. I almost lost Lily in Ancient Egypt, and we may have all had a little bit of a meltdown in the Botanical Hall. But dinosaur bones? Mummies? Meteors? Incredible. Such an amazing place.)