4 months ago, my family flew into Chicago, arriving on a hot and steamy evening. It was a big day for my little family as we had just tied up a hundred loose ends in Sydney and were now en route to our new home in the grand old dame of the midwest for two years.
Chicago was a lush green sight, the trees lining our street almost creating a canopy and complemented by thick green grass underfoot. Three days after we arrived it was our street’s annual block party, an event where if Big Bird had wandered over to say hello, I would not have been surprised (much). Our girls spent 12 hours out playing on the street, the culmination being a talent quest and movie projected onto a sheet hung between two branches. A magical day, only slightly tarnished by the continual warnings of our neighbours, as we sat cradling beers in our t-shirts and jeans: “Winter is coming” they warned, “enjoy this while it lasts, it won’t be long.”
“Bah” we thought, cold weather being impossible to imagine when you’re sitting outside in the evening with bare arms. But, not so strangely enough, our neighbours were correct. It was only a couple of weeks before short sleeves were abandoned, seemingly forever.
We fell into a blurred time of furnishing a house and starting school and work and finding a doctor and where to buy food and finding friends and having a look around and working out how to get understood… and it was exhausting. Homesickness was similar to a grieving process, you’d be fine and marching along and then then, UGH, it would hit you in the guts and you’d be washed over in a wave of “I miss my friends, my family, my house, everything”. And then you’d be OK again. The tricky thing being that we all went through this process simultaneously, it was a delicate time.
So now 4 months on, where are we at? The girls have settled into school and have made friends. They are happy. Our house is set up and work is heading where it needs to, and we’ve met some great people. So all is well.
Yesterday I flicked through my Facebook account from the last 4 months to see what I’ve been posting. There are a few sightseeing pics, but the majority document the weather because, boy, does Chicago have weather. Coming from Sydney where we really have only two distinct seasons, hotter and cooler, the Chicago seasons are incredible.
From our balmy introduction, we flew into Fall. And Fall can only be called Fall over here, because it does indeed fall, and it is so beautiful. The landscape transforms completely from the green lushness into a blaze of colour. Red, orange, yellow and brown leaves, and at its peak, there are leaves everywhere. The ground is blanketed and if you drive your car down a street as a breeze picks up, the sight is breathtaking.
Fall segued quickly into Winter with the early arrival of snow. Now I may be slightly obsessed with snow. Snow in a big city is almost inconceivable to a Sydney-sider and again totally transforms a landscape in seconds. With the trees bare of leaves and white snow on every surface, the landscape becomes stark. The trees however have a delicacy I didn’t expect, the small twigs creating an outline, a defined halo of fine filaments above the trunk of every tree. They still look beautiful.
There are many types of snow: there’s my favourite, the fat fluffy powder snow which dances around you in the air and lands gently on your arm; wet sleety snow, cold and most unwelcome; and large pellet snow which feel like little hailstones on the hood of your jacket. It’s amazing. And once it’s on the ground, it’s like walking on white soft sand, although it can turn within days to patches of super slippery ice.
And then there was the Polar Vortex. And Polar it was. You’ve probably read about it so I won’t harp on it other than saying that it was inhumanly cold. The powdery soft snow on the ground turned into blocks of impervious ice and walking outside was unbearable. But it was only a day and a half and then we fell back into Chicago’s normal winter of subzero temperatures. Which is totally bearable once you’ve invested in the right coat and gloves and hat and scarf. And you get snow, which is a bonus!
And other than the weather?! Well that’s another post in itself but to summarise, I’m loving: The architecture – Frank Lloyd Wright’s work is stunning, as is the Chicago CBD, rebuilt after the fire in 1871; the Midwestern hospitality where people who don’t have to help you do and gladly; the enormous and with colours ever changing Lake Michigan; my favourite Museum ever, the Museum of Science and Industry; restaurants and cafes and bars for days; the devotion to their sporting teams including the Chicago Cubs who haven’t won since 1908; ice skating and sledding outside; the music scene though I haven’t had a lot of time to enjoy it just yet; and the fact that you can walk into a bank, open an account and walk out with a new bankcard with your name on it in minutes! Oh and the Target stores where there’s a separate escalator for your trolley. Ha!
Things I’m not loving? Well this is love/hate but the Americans do bad bad food that is so damn good, such as Creme Brulee Doughnuts and succulent barbecued meats. Then there’s the never ending pharmaceutical drug ads on TV; coaxing children into the requisite coats and gloves and hats every day; and the far more serious issues like the large homeless population and the cycle of poverty and gun violence in many communities.
There’s so much more to say however this little post has turned into more of an essay!
So perhaps I end it here and come back with another postcard soon.
Bye y’all! x