New Fall TV: where romance and identity issues reign

When I was growing up, TV was my thing. I watched too much, but that was when no one cared. It would take at least 4 episodes of The Brady Bunch and two more Family Ties shows taped on the VCR before my mom would venture into the family room to suggest that maybe I do some homework.

My poor boys watch one episode of Dog with a Blog and I’m all “YOUR MIND IS TURNING TO MUSH!”

New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com

My love affair with the black box has never waned. But the nature of being a TV devotee has changed dramatically. There’s no way you can keep up with the best shows. There are just too many.

It’s a good problem to have, but now it’s tough to be an expert– the person friends come to for advice on what’s the best use of TV time.  Over the summer, Wilson and I finally finished Breaking Bad (amazing) and we’re half-way through season 2 of Orange is the New Black (original, fascinating, funny!)

I’m not going to pretend I’ve seen all the new fall shows and can recommend the best of the best. I can tell you what I’ve had time to watch, when not keeping up with my other show commitments (Daily Show, New Girl, Brooklyn 99, Parenthood, Masters of Sex, Boardwalk Empire, Modern Family and of course, my favorite, The Goldbergs.)

I’m not into sci-fi, fantasy or zombies, so luckily that eliminates a bunch of suggested new shows (Z-Nation, Constantine, Gotham, The Flash.) I’m a drama and comedy girl. Here’s what I’ve tried out so far…..

New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com

ABC

Black-ish– ABC comedy about a rich black family trying to maintain their roots and identity in ritzy, suburban L.A. It moves quickly and has some laughs but we were watching with Jacob (who’s 14) and were slightly mortified when the second episode focused on the 13-year-old son getting caught “enjoying alone time” and then asking Dad a lot of intimate sex questions like “What’s oral?” Authentic storyline or network TV trying to push the envelope to keep up with cable? I do like the concept of a show dealing with stereotypes and cultural differences through comedy. It has potential and the kid actors are adorable so I’m sticking with it for now.

New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com

NBC

Marry Me:  Please don’t let this cheesy poster affect your first impression of what could be a hit show. A 30-something couple living in Manhattan get engaged in the pilot episode, in a very unexpected way. It’s funny and the writing is strong– think Modern Family and New Girl, quick banter that actually had me rewinding a few times to catch the diss I missed. The leads– Casey Wilson (from Happy Endings and SNL) and Ken Marino have great chemistry and handle the complicated dialog with ease. I’ll definitely tune in again.

New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com

NBC

A to Z:  This NBC comedy is probably good enough to stand on its own merits, for smart writing and talented actors, but because it stars Cristin Milioti– also the long-awaited “mother” of How I Met Your Mother, and an actor (Ben Feldman, the crazy writer from Mad Men) who looks a little like Ted and has the same dreamy infatuation with romance and fate, fans of that show will undoubtedly be living vicariously through this plot. Both lead actors are very attractive and clearly have chemistry but the supporting players– meant to be quirky and hilarious– weren’t memorable or funny. The story was cute but not sure it will be enough to save up space on the DVR. Time will tell.

The Affair New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com

Showtime

The Affair– This show got all the buzz and the trailers intrigued me. Brooklyn teacher (Dominic West) with lovely wife (Maura Tierney) and 4 kids spends summer at in-laws’ gorgeous Hamptons beach house and can’t resist a sexy, complicated diner waitress (Ruth Wilson). They start an affair and something rotten happens, because they’re spilling their story to a police detective in the pilot episode. The characters so far don’t seem particularly interesting and the family dialog does not ring true to me. But half of the first episode is told from his point of view, and the other is told from hers which is refreshing and compelling.  Press on the show says it deals with the complicated motivation behind infidelity. Wilson — who cheered when a drug dealer’s face was blown off by an IED and didn’t flinch when Al Capone smashed heads and shot up a gang of traitors– didn’t enjoy some of the depressing content of this story. But it sucked us both in enough to keep watching.

Transparent New fall TV reviews on carpoolcandy.com

Amazon

Transparent– This show was a leap for us old school viewers because it’s an Amazon original show we can only watch on my laptop. It’s been a critical darling, because of its daring subject matter and authentic portrayal of a privileged LA family dealing with a major adjustment. Jeffrey Tambor (from Arrested Development)  plays a divorced retired professor transitioning from male to female. The pilot has him trying to tell his three grown children but struggling because of his own discomfort, and his new perception of them as too self-involved to see him for who he wants to be. Despite the small screen, the show is shot beautifully and feels like an indie movie. The dialog is sharp and almost painfully real. The characters are complex and mysterious. I loved it. My favorite new show by a mile. Wilson had no interest based on the elevator pitch, but the pilot drew him in and he’s on board. That’s my guy!

I still want to try:

Madam Secretary– It got rave reviews and I’ve always liked politics and Tea Leoni.

The Chair– Wilson and I loved Project Greenlight back in the day and this promises to be a better version of the reality show. Aspiring directors compete to make the best movie on a tight budget in tough Hollywood. But if this doesn’t cut it, Affleck and Damon are bringing Project Greenlight back with new episodes on HBO soon.

What are you watching? I’d love to know which shows have you hooked and which you’re booting off the DVR. Tell me in the comments.

And if you want more info on all the new shows, check out these stories:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/fall-tv-tim-goodman-ranks-735048

http://www.tv.com/news/most-anticipated-new-fall-shows-2014-140866924747/

http://www.bostonglobe.com/2014/09/12/which-new-shows-make-grade/Y4yybfADs6EY24R4yQ40aO/story.html

 

Michigan reunion: my weekend bleeding maize and blue

Last month, Wilson and I traveled to Michigan for a college reunion with his fraternity brothers. He went to U of M in Ann Arbor– let’s just say, many years ago (the number is too painful to put in print) — and has remained very connected to the school and his pals.

Michigan reunion weekend on carpoolcandy.com

Since graduating, Wilson has tried to make an annual pilgrimage back to Michigan to see football games with a few of his buddies. Five years ago, a bunch of them put on their organizing hats for an extravaganza reunion weekend that was so well attended and successful, they wanted to make it an every-5-years tradition.

Out of about 26 brothers of Sigma Alpha Mu (aka Sammies) in their graduating year, an impressive 20 came to the reunion this year, with many wives, and kids in tow.

Michigan reunion weekend on carpoolcandy.com

The SAM gang

They’re an accomplished group– with careers in law, business, medicine and media– with partners and probably more than 50 kids among them. But they put that September weekend in Sharpie on the calendar because — as any alumnus will tell you– Michigan bonds are mighty.

Michigan reunion weekend on carpoolcandy.com

One of my best friends from high school, Deb, went to Michigan and I used to visit her in January because Michigan went back to school a week earlier than Tufts. Wilson and I have figured out that we were definitely at the same Sammy parties. Amazingly, he lived off campus senior year in the same house Deb lived in the following year when we were seniors, and I spent a weekend there back in the day.

So I have some nostalgia for the place, but it’s nothing compared to the cultish enthusiasm Michigan instills in anyone who’s walked the diag or sang Hail to the Victors in the Big House.

We met at the stadium Friday afternoon, where everyone got t-shirts and hugs as the brothers and their families streamed in. Many of them hadn’t seen each other since the last reunion so as we strolled through the stadium on a private tour, everyone was making introductions, catching up, and snapping pictures.

And laughing. Remember how much you laughed in college? Good times.

Some genius hired a professional photographer to capture all of it and he found a way to make a bunch of 40-somethings look great.

Although I’m never all that impressed by the inside of an empty stadium,  even I was awed when we got to go on the hallowed field. The precision of the lines, the professional air of the place, and the enormity of standing on the very turf of the storied Michigan football program was cool. Some of the kids tossed a football around, making plays and tackling each other, just cause they could.

Michigan reunion weekend on carpoolcandy.com

We had a terrific dinner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, where everyone got a chance to move around and chat. The food was great and the video montage– with pictures from college to the present–  made everyone verklempt.

On game day, the guys were giddy. They got up early, donned their maize and blue and hurried to campus, as excited as the first game freshman year.

Michigan reunion weekend on carpoolcandy.com

The famous gold M on the diag on campus

We walked around Ann Arbor and campus, and spent too much money buying Michigan swag at MDen.

Michigan reunion weekend on carpoolcandy.com

Maize and blue duds at the MDen

Side note: Everyone was wearing Michigan colors: t-shirts, sweatshirts, socks, headbands, hats, jackets, sneakers, jewelry, even nail decals.

Michigan reunion weekend on carpoolcandy.com

School spirit was infectious

I would not have even considered showing up at the tailgate without an M on. It’s just bad form.

Michigan reunion weekend on carpoolcandy.com

Catered by the famous Zingerman’s deli (the bread is to die for) the tailgate had a full bar and coolers stocked with beer. Just like old times, only more civilized.

Michigan reunion weekend on carpoolcandy.com

Some of the brothers now have kids who attend Michigan or plan to apply, which made me feel old. In my heart, I don’t feel that much older than those kids running around campus. But the perfect antidote to that is spending the weekend reliving our college days, hanging out in a parking lot on a sunny day with nowhere else to go, drinking and eating more than we’d allow at home. Our tailgate kicked ass.

The game was a disaster. No more needs to be said about that. We all met for one last dinner at Pizza House where we tried to finish all the interrupted conversations sprinkled throughout the weekend and check in one last time before the bear hugs and goodbyes.

Some of the wives went to Michigan too so they see these men and must recognize the boys they once were: pontificating, teasing, laughing, like they did many years ago.

Michigan reunion weekend on carpoolcandy.com

The wives and daughters. We’re bonded too!

I didn’t know them as boys, only as the amazing men they are now, but to see them together– gives me a small glimpse of what they must have been like then. The dynamics of leadership, the old personality traits, but more than anything the affection and love– real love– they have for each other.

Michigan reunion on carpoolcandy.com

It’s a rare and special connection. I feel grateful to be a part of it, if only by marriage.

As we were leaving the restaurant, Wilson and five of his buddies looked across the street at Rick’s with a nostalgic nod. After getting the ok from the wives, they entered the bar for one last round of shots, just like they used to. They toasted to friendship.

The high from the weekend lasted a few days after we returned and we eagerly scrolled through the photos, trying to hang on to the buzz. It takes an exceptional group of people to pull off a weekend like that. These guys are leaders and best.

Lena Dunham is “Not that Kind Of Girl”

Recently a friend posted an excerpt in The New Yorker of Lena Dunham’s new memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, declaring it “one of the stupidest things the magazine ever published” and warning friends not to read it. Within a few hours there were at least 12 comments agreeing with the post and dissing Dunham big time.

I normally avoid public arguments, especially over subjective topics like art, but I couldn’t help but become Dunham’s lone champion in the sea of critics with this comment:

At the risk of being pelted with rotten tomatoes, I love her. I’m reading her book now to review for the AP and thoroughly enjoying it. Also love Girls. As a writer I admire her unrelenting candor and thoughtful, modern prose. As a woman I’m inspired by her ambition (writing directing acting producing on her terms at 28!) and empowered by her moxie in a superficial Hollywood. Plus she makes me laugh. Out loud.

It wasn’t until this exchange that I realized Dunham is a polarizing figure in pop culture. I was under the impression that everyone thought she was brilliant, funny and innovative, as I do.

lena dunham NYT cover on carpoolcandy.com

Dunham’s been celebrated all month before the book launch. I loved this cover.

I found out she was writing a book last April and immediately emailed my editor to call dibs on reviewing it. I wanted to be one of the first to read it, and secretly hoped she might read my review, which would be a thrill. That’s how much I admire her writing.

When Girls came out on HBO in 2012, I eagerly watched every episode and marveled at how someone so young could be so talented and driven. She created the show, acts, writes, produces and directs. It has her personal stamp on every episode and hasn’t been vanilla-ed down by clueless network executives.

The characters and dialogue are so authentic, I’m engaged for the entire half-hour and always wish there was more.

I can see how some could perceive her as attention-seeking or self-indulgent, but the book draws a clear line between her character Hannah on the show, and Lena. She’s actually extremely private and leads a pretty low-key life in Brooklyn. Like Hannah, Dunham struggles with OCD and anxiety. She writes candidly about how it’s affected her life and work, which is likely to help others.  She’s an artist, and a workhorse, and from all I’ve read, extremely grateful and humbled by her success.

I guess what’s turned off some people is how often she appears topless or naked in the show, because she doesn’t have the typical Hollywood body and seems completely comfortable letting it all hang out. I love that about her and envy her chutzpah.

Guess what? She doesn’t want my admiration and frankly finds it insulting:

“A frequently asked question is how I’m “brave” enough to reveal my body on-screen. The subtext there is definitely how I’m brave enough to reveal my imperfect body, since I doubt Blake Lively would be subject to the same line of inquiry,” she writes in the book.

All those moms I see on Facebook posting stories about how to raise daughters with healthy body images are some of the same ladies who diss Dunham for showing too much of hers. She has some reasonable explanations in the book about why she’s comfortable naked, but why should she even have to address it? It’s her show, her character, her vision.

Not-that-kind-of-girl-cover- on carpoolcandy.comI loved the book, as I said in my review:

In her new memoir, “Not That Kind of Girl,” Lena Dunham relays a charming story about meeting a new friend and fellow writer she admires in London, drinking too much wine and projectile vomiting all over the woman’s living room floor. After a feckless effort to keep the last messy detail of the night to herself, Dunham blabs the story to colleagues in the first 10 minutes of a meeting the next day. “Sharing is my first instinct,” she writes.

It’s that brazen willingness to bare all that drives Dunham’s work, and readers of this collection of smart, funny and poignant essays will thank her for it.

You could argue that Dunham is too young to be doling out life advice, but the book’s subtitle, “A Young Woman Tells You What She’s ‘Learned,'” is a wink at readers. She acknowledges that she’s no expert, but hopes discussing intimate topics — from losing her virginity to her struggles with crippling anxiety — may normalize the daunting process of transitioning to mature adulthood.

 While much of the advice is aimed at millennials, she has the wisdom and depth of an old soul….

To read more click here.

Whether she’s your cup of herbal tea or not, you can’t deny her smarts. She’s one of those writers who says a lot with few words. By revealing just a few descriptive details and behaviors she conveys instantly recognizable characters, and can transport you right to a place by its looks and smells. Her use of language and self-deprecating humor make me giggle.

So I say give Dunham another look, naysayers. And fans, you’re in for a treat.

Tell me what kind of girl you think Dunham is in the comments.

I lost my driver’s license on vacation (and tried not to freak out)

I was spending a glorious weekend in Ann Arbor for Wilson’s University of Michigan fraternity reunion (another post on that later)…. when I lost my driver’s license at the tailgate party.

Michigan Stadium scoreboard on carpoolcandy

Warning #1:  They don’t allow any bags into Michigan Stadium.

None, at all. Whatever you can shove in the pockets of your skinny jeans is what you can bring into the game.

I didn’t realize this until I was at the Campus Inn picking up friends before the game. So I grabbed my phone, camera and a credit card and left my bag in their room.

Warning #2:  Trust your instincts!
I debated whether to bring my license–I didn’t think I’d need it– but my friend convinced me you never know when you might need ID. (As if a 40-something year old mom would ever get carded by a 20-year-old bouncer at Rick’s) I wasn’t sure why I would need it but it sounded reasonable so I put the license and credit card in my camera case.

During several hours of tailgating I took the camera out to snap photos and was careful to put it back with the cards. But right at the end of the tailgate, the Bloody Marys had kicked in and I was not on my game.

I took the camera out to take a picture and my credit card fell out. As I picked it up, my friend, Eric, said “You better be careful not to lose that card.” I returned it to the case and saw the license in there.

That was the last time I eyeballed it.

Soon after, we walked to the stadium, laughing and talking as thousands of kids crowded the streets to get to the game. Just as we arrived, I looked down and realized the camera case was open and the license was gone.

My heart sank. I was pissed at myself for being a bonehead, but worse I didn’t want to be a buzz kill for Wilson and his friends. After an expletive-heavy outburst, I wanted retrace my steps back to the parking lot where the party was, to try to find it.

Although it was his only game at the Big House all year, although he was relishing bonding with his friends, Wilson took a half hour to help me look for it.

After an unsuccessful search we went back to the game. Michigan imploded on the field so although I felt badly that he missed some of the game, at least he didn’t miss any good plays.

I tried to put the stress of the lost license on the back burner and enjoyed the game experience and a fun dinner afterwards. I was worried about how I was going to get on my return flight and how I would drive at home without it but tried not to dwell.

I called campus police, emailed the tailgate caterer and asked around but came up license-less.

Warning #3  Get to the airport early if you don’t have ID
I called Delta when we got back to our friend’s house and they said I’d have to go through an extra security check when I got to the airport.

Delta terminal Detroit Metro Airport on carpoolcandy.com

Detroit Metro airport was bery bery good to me

Warning #4  Don’t copy your passport
Wilson thought it was a good idea to have my mom (who was staying with my kids at our house) take a photo of my passport and email it so I could show that to the TSA people at the airport as another official form of ID. Sounded like a smart plan but when we showed it to the Delta check-in guy he told us it’s a federal offense to copy your passport, and digitally sending it is also a no-no. Who knew? We were so grateful he told us before we got in more trouble with the TSA.

Luckily, it wasn’t busy when we arrived at Detroit Metro. We told the TSA agent I lost my license and after a bunch of questions he got a supervisor to help us. He asked what other ID I had (my work photo ID, credit cards and a health insurance card were enough to prove I wasn’t an impostor) and escorted us through the regular security line.

Warning #5:  If you’re going through security with no ID, don’t bring any sharp objects, and disguise all embarrassing items in your luggage.
My bag was checked thoroughly on the belt and then a rubber-glove wearing TSA agent went through it– right there, in front of everyone– testing for explosive residue. I had not planned for this, but was mentally rejoicing that I had put my dirty granny-pants in a side pocket and left all my see-through lingerie at home.

I was also treated to a pat down by a female TSA agent who seemed to take pleasure in ordering me around and getting to second base as Wilson looked on.

All in all, it wasn’t too bad.

Delta terminal Detroit Metro Airport on carpoolcandy.com

Wilson and I had time to kill waiting for our flight after the relatively easy check-in

We sailed through security with only a 10 minute delay and everyone was pretty nice and understanding.

Warning #6 (the most important one!) Don’t freak out.  

After the uneventful TSA experience, I was glad I didn’t come unglued and let the situation ruin my good time Saturday night. It was a special weekend with friends we don’t see enough, and just wasn’t worth the stress.

I hoped it would all work out in the end and it did. Although spending the morning at the DMV this week to get a new license may sour my sunny outlook!

Wilson thinks some good Samaritan Wolverine found my license and will send it in the mail. I’ll keep you posted.

Puppy Love for reals

She had him at woof.

IMG_3792

For those of you looking for an update on our Golden Doodle puppy, Brady, he’s a near-perfect pooch. Sure, he requires work and the kids don’t walk and care for him as much as I hoped they would.

But that furry guy greets me at the door every single time I get home with a leg nuzzle and a wagging tail that says “You’re the greatest!”

It never gets old. His love is truly unconditional, a rarity in my house.

He’s friendly, well-behaved, and doesn’t smell bad. He really doesn’t shed, and seems content to eat the same food every day, and spend hours on my cold, slate kitchen floor without a complaint or hint of bitterness . (Although he does much prefer to lay among the pillows on my couch.)

And now’s he’s got a crush on the girl next door.

golden doodle loves wheaton terrier puppy on carpoolcandy.com

The lovely Elsie

She’s an adorable Wheaton Terrier named Elsie who’s just a few months younger than Brady.

Ever since they discovered each other across our chain-link fence, their obsession has grown. When one is out, he/she is searching for the other. Their determination to connect is so intense, they’ve found spots all along the fence to dig holes just deep enough for Elsie (who’s smaller) to escape into our yard.

golden doodle loves wheaton terrier puppy on carpoolcandy.com

This week’s escape hole dug by Elsie

While our neighbors are onboard with the relationship, they’re non too pleased about the endless excavation and have tried many different methods to shore up the shallow spots– to no avail.

golden doodle loves wheaton terrier puppy on carpoolcandy.com

Attempts to block the lovers from clandestine meetings

Despite the neighbors’ Les Miserables quality barricades, those pups burrow their way to being together.

At least a few times a week, Elsie will dig her way over and I’ll see the two dogs barking and chasing each other around with a glee akin to me at a Bloomingdale’s shoe sale.

They run, they wrestle, they snip at their ears.

golden doodle loves wheaton terrier puppy on carpoolcandy.com

They roll around in complete circles like animated cartoon dogs.

golden doodle loves wheaton terrier puppy on carpoolcandy.com

When they get tired they stop and drink water, sharing one bowl, even though there are always two.

golden doodle loves wheaton terrier puppy on carpoolcandy.com

Sometimes they’ll find a shady spot and lay down next to each other glancing around and I swear they’re having some telepathic conversation about me, the sorry state of our yard, or perhaps the high price of good steak these days. Who knows?

They’re so deeply in love, we’ve started referring to them as Romeo and Juliet. golden doodle loves wheaton terrier puppy on carpoolcandy.com

Get a room!!

We don’t always want them escaping into the other yard, and have to corral them back home, but they just can’t stay away. We arrange regular play dates so they get exercise and their flirting fix. (And speaking of fixed, don’t worry, they’ve both been neutered.)

The only down side to this affair is that they get filthy from rolling around in the hay, so to speak. But it’s a small price to pay to see the determination and joy of love blooming through a metal fence.

The lovable hater behind ‘People I Want to Punch in the Throat’

I’m gonna be honest here kids. I check my blog stats obsessively and I know when you like a post… and when one’s as popular as a Baby Ruth floating in the pool.

My book review posts are not getting as much love as I’d like.

But stick with me on this one!

I need to draw your attention to a hilarious memoir I reviewed this week called People I Want to Punch in the Throat. It’s written by a fellow blogger who loves to point a figurative finger at overachieving, annoying people– particularly maddeningly doting know-it-all parents– and call them out on their crap.

People I Want to Punch in the Throat cover on carpoolcandy.com

Not only will you LOL, you may stand up and cheer when she eviscerates the mom who tries oh so subtly to completely exclude her from a toddler playgroup…or those who are certain their child is a prodigy and/or headed for the Olympics.

Here’s a taste….

Mann needs only a few sharp details to accurately sum up distinct personalities. There are the judgmental, designer-sunglasses-wearing “Dolce moms,” the self-interested garage-sale-trolling jerks who hope you won’t break a big bill she affectionately calls “$50 people” and the freaky, pill-popping moms known as “Superusers.”

She loves to pick on extreme parents, who spoil and overschedule their kids. Stories about catty, cliquey moms — similar to the evil sisterhoods in movies like “Heathers” and “Mean Girls” — zero in on complicated female relationships.

Mann deftly uses humor to underscore how intense and humbling mothering can be, which will strike a chord with parents who feel less than perfect.

“Now the Mommy Wars are all about who can out-mom their neighbor. The judging is not about who spends the most time with her kid … or who has the most important job; it’s been ratcheted up to who can breast-feed the longest and in the most unusual places,” Mann writes.

You can read the complete review here.

I’ll keep it short and sweet. Read this book. It will take you about 2 days of side-splitting giggles to get through it and I guarantee you’ll thank me.

See… that wasn’t so bad, right?

I’d love to hear what makes you click or not click on a post in the comments.  I’m listening!

 

You CAN go home again (and I did)

Chicago lakefront on Carpoolcandy.com

North Avenue, Chicago lakefront

Last month, I took Aden and Eli on a pilgrimage home to Chicago for a few days. I grew up in an apartment downtown, overlooking Lake Michigan before leaving for New York a few years after college in 1994.

I loved Chi-town but my dream was to be a TV news producer and although I was working as an associate producer at ABC back then, there was little hope for advancement unless I moved to New York. My father had died of cancer the year before, I was hanging out with my tight high school crowd and not meeting any interesting men, so I needed to get outta Dodge for a while.

My plan was to work in New York for a few years and return to Chicago to start a family and send my kids to Parker, the small private school I attended from 7th-12th grade. My friends would do the same and we’d raise our kids together.

My mother sobbed as I got on the plane headed East, telling me she feared I would meet my husband and never come back. “That’s crazy,” I said. I wanted to make a life in Chicago, but I  would just be away for a bit, and get some work experience under my belt.

Of course, my mother was right.

I moved to New York, eventually got a job at ABC and met Wilson within two years. (For more on that romantic tale click here.) And here we are 17 years later, living in the Garden State.

I’ve made a big effort to get back to Chicago at least once a year to preserve my roots, and introduce my kids to my hometown. My immediate family has left, but my aunt and cousins are there and I still have close friends who graciously welcome me into their homes and lives on each journey.

We’ve hit most of the tourist spots over the years but I try to pick a few special outings each visit.

This year, we went to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field…

Wrigley Field on carpoolcandy.com

We had a great time for two innings until….

Wrigley Field on carpoolcandy.com

…it got very dark and started to pour.

…. and saw the amazing animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago on carpoolcandy.com My mom was in town for my aunt’s birthday so we also walked around Millennium Park and visited the sculptures.

Millennium Park in Chicago on carpoolcandy.com

The bean sculpture in Millennium Park in Chicago on carpoolcandy.com

The bean sculpture in Millennium Park

The bean sculpture in Millennium Park in Chicago on carpoolcandy.com

Our reflection in the bean

I enjoyed the cultural detour more than the boys, who much preferred to go back to my friend’s house to play Wii.

We ate deep dish pizza and Vienna hot dogs.

Deep dish pizza in Chicago on carpoolcandy.com

Vienna hotdog at Wrigley in Chicago on carpoolcandy.com

The boys said this Vienna dog was better than New York hotdogs. And they could use ketchup proudly!

They took a dip in Lake Michigan.

IMG_3665

Boys and our friend Jack on the lake in Glencoe

I ran on the gorgeous lakefront and couldn’t help but stop when I got to the building where I grew up.

Chicago lakefront on carpoolcandy.com

Towards the left side of the photo, there’s a short, round building. My building is the taller one immediately to the right of that one.

1212 LSD Chicago on carpoolcandy.com

So odd to be standing there and have no reason to go inside.

I counted up to the 12th floor balcony to our old apartment and was elated to see a barbecue grill and plenty of planted flowers, just like we had when we lived there. My dad would have loved that.

My boys got along well with my friends’ kids, despite differing ages and genders and the fact that they only see each other once a year. It’s like they know we’re family.

Kids on carpoolcandy.com

Our friends Izzy and Liv

We had a pretty tight group at Parker– with only 65 kids per grade in middle school and 90 in our graduating high school class. We developed an intimacy that has endured over the years, despite geographical separation.

I only talk to a few of these girlfriends regularly, but my memories and affection for them are strong, as is our bond. They’re the few people left in my life who knew my father and what he meant to me. Most people I’m close with now– including Wilson– never had the chance to meet him.

I got together with six of these girls for dinner one night and it was one of the highlights of my summer. It took us at least 30 minutes to order because we couldn’t stop talking long enough to decide what to eat.

We’re all in different stages of life–our kids range in age from 3 to 17– and some are dealing with sick parents, career changes, and divorce. Although we’re not in each other’s day-to-day lives, there was an immediate comfort level.  No topic was too personal, no question too nosy, no emotion too deep to express.

We reminisced, reminded each other of our own experiences forgotten or misremembered over so many years, and laughed til our bellies hurt. We lingered at the table after the meal, then walked to get ice cream and sat outside yapping for another hour.

I didn’t want the night to end.

Old friends on carpoolcandy.com

I’m a much more independent, confident person than I was when I knew these ladies way back when. Yet being with them touched a part of myself I don’t feel very often because I don’t live where I grew up. They know where I came from and they get me.

They are my safe place.

All through the visit,  I tried to point out childhood landmarks to my kids as we drove by (That was my first school! Look at the mall where I shopped! I spent half my teen life in that friend’s basement!) but it mostly fell on deaf ears. Every time I passed these places that were all so familiar to me I was overcome with nostalgia and a yearning for the past.

My boys are too young to appreciate my past. They are creatures of the now.

It was good to see the relics of my childhood through their eyes: as just buildings or parks with no emotional attachments. It helped me to stay in the present, a place I don’t dwell or appreciate enough.

My new dream is that one of my kids will go to college in Chicago. Northwestern would be nice. I’d have a reason to visit regularly, my son would have friends and family nearby, and the city would hold a place in his heart as much as it’s embedded in mine.