You readers may not know this, but I just returned to the farm again from a 7 week stay in Chicago, mentoring and teaching inner city girl in 7th and 8th grade. It was a wonderful experience, being able to get teaching experience and to touch the lives of some very wonderful girls. I would just like to put in a plug for 7th and 8th graders in general. They are FUN! I never thought I would say that, but it is so true. After they get over being “too cool” and just start to be themselves, they are so sweet and hilarious.
One of the most interesting parts of being in Chicago was experiencing city life. At one point, I had considered living in the city of Chicago, finding a teaching job, getting an apartment, and living happily ever after, just five hours from home. Hah, about that…it would work if I didn’t hate the city, which, after my recent stay there, I have realized is how I feel about it. I felt smothered by the concrete from day one, as I stayed just four blocks from Union Station, very close to downtown. On the third day, I went to a park down the street and realized that I had not sat on grass for three days. The farm girl in me was starving for beauty, beauty that I could not find in the spires of the Sears Tower.
Lake Michigan was my saving grace, and as often as I could stomach wading through the crowds and past the homeless people all along the way, I would run the mile and a half down to the lake and run out my frustrations on the lakefront. The bobbing boats and ever-changing, blue-green water meeting the horizon would calm me down, and prepare me for another day in the concrete jungle.
One of my very favorite memories from my stay in Chicago was when I got a visit from my very dear friend, Katie Hand. Katie and I run track and cross country together at the University of Dallas, and she hopped on a bus to ride overnight to Chicago to cheer up my last days in the city. She came to work with me for a day, and we got the question all day from the girls: “Are you two sisters?”
We might as well be. This girl and I have been on enough runs together to bond us for a lifetime. And this is where the story of our Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago starts.
Katie is not the greatest at organization. There have been many times where I have come to her room to get her to come to track practice to find her asleep or just plain missing. And so when it came time for her to catch her bus out of Chicago, things got interesting. She was supposed to leave at 11:30 pm from Union Station. And somehow she, our friend Monica, and I were a good mile away from there by 11:10 pm. We were on the train, one stop away from where we wanted to get off, and of course, it was having technical difficulties. We all looked at each other, shrugged, and hopped of the train. What else was there to do but run through downtown Chicago at 11 at night for a mile? Two of us were in dresses, and I was sporting low-heeled sandals and carrying my purse and Katie’s backpack on my back. I strapped it down tightly on my shoulders and just ran.
There was a moment where the hilarity of our situation hit us as we ran through intersections, ignoring the stoplights and stares of the few people out on the streets with us. Panting and laughing, we arrived at Union Station with 8 minutes to spare. Adventures are sure to happen when Katie Hand is around. Monica and I managed to walk the 4 blocks back to our place of residence without being bothered by the local homeless with a story to tell upon our smiling lips.
Chicago, I may not like you at all, but thank you for the Magnificent Mile.