Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The tooth fairy.
She's very forgetful now that she's in perimenopause.

It is from the back seat of the car that all momentous pronouncements come. So it was inevitable that the curtain came down on the Santa myth from the back seat of the car on Sunday as Lilly and Grace and I drove to pick up our fast-food Sunday dinner at Steak N Shake.

"Umm, Mom?" Lilly says "I know about Santa."

Oh thank god. I had not been looking forward to that conversation but I had also not been looking forward to another year of playing Santa. Frankly, I'm not cut out for that role.
Too much sneaking. I'm not sneaky. Too much planning. I'm not a planner. Way too much to remember. I have no memory. Thus I would all too often say, "The doll I got you, no I mean the doll Santa brought, hee hee, I'm so confused, who gave you that?"

It is perfectly appropriate that Lilly would tell me. With three kids proper protocol diminishes with each child. When I told Atticus he was crushed like kids are supposed to be; Grace asked me outright and just shrugged when I broke it to her; and Lilly told me.

"I've known for two years," she adds.

"Why did you tell me today then?"

"I told Grace and she told me I had to tell you."

"Thank you Grace." Grace is well aware I do not relish my Santa job. I've been pawning more and more of it off on her in recent years--first under the guise of "softening the blow" of the truth but more recently out of sheer laziness. Here, help me pick something out. Hey, would you wrap that. Oh, here's a twenty, ride your bike to Toys R Us and find something. Go ahead and get yourself a little something too.

"So that means I can stop all the nonsense? Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy?" I confirm.

"Yeah. And that tooth fairy trick you do...it's lame. We know about it."

I know exactly which trick she means. In fact, it's the only way the Tooth Fairy has delivered money in the past four years. Here's how it goes. She tells me she lost a tooth. She puts it under her pillow. I forget and go to bed without taking care of it. In the morning at the breakfast table Lilly says, "The Tooth Fairy forgot to come. Again." and I say, "Oh, I have to get something in my room," and slip away with a dollar hidden in my hand. From her bedroom I call, "Hey, look the dollar must have fallen down behind the bed!" and she comes in and acts surprised.

Over time I got sloppier and sloppier on this until the last time when I think I walked to my purse took out a dollar and said, "Oh look, the Tooth Fairy left the dollar in my wallet."

And so it was that when Lilly made the pronouncement from the back seat I surprised even myself by not being remotely sentimental about it all. No tears, no regrets, no sadness at the obvious marker of a childhood slipping away.

All I felt was great relief at finally being able to drop the facade I had erected so long ago and maintained so poorly over time.

Ho, ho, whew.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


A view from the Chicago River

We live in Chicago, often called the "Second City"--second to NYC, LA, and DC really. Unlike those cities, we don't host a lot of celebs. To be sure we have Oprah, and Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston show up now and then. You can't swing a cat in Wrigley Field without hitting a Cusack or a Piven or a Murray. But that's really it. And none of those celebs attract world-wide media attention. Well, Oprah does but not on a regular basis.

As for global recognition, Chicago is of course known by other countries--but not well-known. Tell a European you're from Chicago and he'll hold his hands like a tommy-gun and say "Ah, Al Capone." Not exactly the image we'd like projected around the world, but there it is.

So it's kind of weird to have spent a week in the eye of the global media storm after the Presidential Election. Of course, we expected it to happen on Tuesday but when we woke up Wednesday and the traffic reporter mentioned he wasn't sure what was happening in Hyde Park because of the new "no-fly zone" over Obama's house it was noteworthy.

We're not used to presidential motorcades. Cokey Roberts on NPR said we'd better get used to it after we heard some unaware fool tried to pass the motorcade down in the Loop and got pulled over by the FBI, guns drawn. Oops. My bad officer, I was just trying to get to my lunch at Gene and Georgettis.

Barack's first press conference was at the Chicago Hilton, the same hotel we stayed in last week and the same hotel I've attended numerous events at. He and Michelle went to dinner at Spiaggia on Saturday a restaurant I've been to also for date night. It was odd to see all of this on World News Tonight.

At a church fundraiser on Friday the talk was all about our new family-elect. An architect friend of ours, Bill, was saying that his client's children attend school with Sasha and Malia (we're already on first name basis with these girls) and that they had shown up to school on Wednesday morning, on time, despite the fact that they'd been on stage the night before in front of the entire world until nearly midnight. Many of their classmates did not show up, using the excuse that they'd stayed up late to watch the elections. You gotta love that. And where else are you going to hear a story like that but here in Obamaland?

"Are they nice girls?" I asked Bill.

He smiled broadly, "They're very nice girls," he confirmed. We all sighed and sipped our drinks.

The President's daughters are nice girls and they're our girls from our town.

Chicago and for now the "Second-to-none City".

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Michigan Ave after the rally in front of our hotel.

I should have written yesterday to tell you about our election night in Chicago but I'm still trying to digest it all and process it. I can't. It's just too much. So I'll give you some highlights/observations and we'll go from there.

For now, I'm walking on sunshine, bouncing off the walls. Life is good. Change happens.

-The best moment was when we were standing on Michigan Avenue waiting to get into the park. We went late deliberately, not wanting to stand in the crowd for hours, and mistakenly thinking there would be no line at that point. Instead, at 9:30 when we left our hotel we found a line, five people wide and about three blocks down. We got in line and everyone was pumped. Cell phones were on and friends were texting to keep us up to date. We knew victory was close. All we needed was for the California polls to close. There was a roar coming from the park and everyone wanted to know what happened. A man leaned out of a hotel window across the street and shouted "He took California!" and everyone started going crazy. Hugging. Crying. Laughing. Another few minutes passed and the woman in front of us looked up from her cell phone and shouted, "They're calling it, they're calling it! We did it" and then we really heard the roar from the park and even though the street was closed a few cars snuck through with people hanging out the windows, waving signs, screaming "We did it, We did it!" and we hugged and cried again. Horns honked and everyone screamed. It was unreal.

-We stayed at the Chicago Hilton and Towers a storied old-school hotel and as I hoped it was full of reporters and movers and shakers. When we got out of the car in the parking garage three vans full of TSA agents were unloading. They smiled and joked with each other. One of them said hello to me and I asked "Hey, you going to keep us safe tonight?" "You know we are!" The party was on.

-Grace and I stopped in the hotel gift shop to get a snack. We paid $3.99 for a bag of cheezits. Next to the cash register was a basket of McCain buttons. The sign on them said 99cents.

-The Defender, a black Chicago newspaper, was hosting a big party upstairs and we saw Jesse Jackson and several other black politicians I recognized. Everyone looked like a journalist with their perfect faces and being followed by cameramen. I can't remember ever being somewhere where it was so obvious that you were in the middle of something big. The kids and I waited over an hour to be seated for dinner. Jesse and his posse came out of the restaurant and we just hung around watching people come and go in the hotel lobby. More than half the crowd was black. At one point a white man in a suit walked by and I was struck by how out of place he looked. It's a new world.

-We finally got seated for dinner. Kenny Mayne a reporter for ESPN was sitting next to us. I only recognized him because he has been on Dancing with the Stars. A few people approached him for a picture. He was gracious. Every few minutes the crowd in the lobby bar would erupt into cheers and Atticus would run out and then run back to tell us the news, "He took Pennsylvania!" The food was tasteless and I was too excited to eat. It was one of the best dinners I ever had.

-When we got to the park we stood on the edge of the sea of people with a clear shot of the Jumbotron. A man gave an invocation. We said the pledge of allegiance. I haven't said it in years-- it's my silent protest of the man in the White House but I said it Tuesday. When it was over a girl on her boyfriend's shoulders shouted to the world, "I've never said that and meant it before tonight!" A woman came out to sing the national anthem. I don't know who it was but she didn't know the words and we had to laugh at her mangling of them. And then, a voice came over the loudspeaker and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the first-family elect of the United States of America" and the crowd went wild and the crying really started in earnest.

-Barack spoke. You saw it. It was solemn. It was great. The crowd was jubilant, triumphant, but subdued, weighed down I think with equal parts disbelief and the heft of the moment.

-When it was over we all turned and went as quietly as 150,000 people can go into the night. Later at the hotel bar we sat and watched more returns, dazed at what we'd seen. Two British journalists started talking to us. They wanted to know why the crowd was so civilized and where had everyone gone? It was nearly 1:00 and the street was almost empty. Jeff and I thought about it long and hard. Finally, I summed it up, "This is the city that works. We had our party but we're all getting up and going to work tomorrow. Jeff will go to work, I'll take the kids to school. That's what we do in Chicago-- we work."

And as it turns out, that's what our president-elect did too.

Godspeed to Barack Obama.

More of my pics at http://www.facebook.com/photos.php?id=552537016#/album.php?aid=49115&id=552537016