And we’re back.
I was in Chicago earlier this month, for some bidness meetings, to celebrate Yelena’s 30th birthday, and to spend time with Maureen, Juan, and their ladies at the zoo (Emelia is so TALL! And Noemi, who is nine months older than Eve, hilariously touched up her hair when we passed a reflective surface). And when I’m traveling alone, I always have to do three things:
- Ruin an article of clothing;
- Lose or destroy some personal electronic device;
- Get involved in a zany mishap of some sort.
On this particular trip the victims were my only pair of jeans (torn) and my LG Cookie smartphone (got it wet while running, ruined it).
The mishap occurred on my first full day, before I killed the phone.
I ventured into town, bought a pair of running shoes, and when I went to buy lunch, my card had been frozen. My only card. My only card issued by a bank whose office I had phoned prior to leaving and INFORMED them that I was going to be in Toronto and Chicago that week, using said card.
I couldn’t get money out of an ATM. I didn’t have enough cash for the Metra. And my phone, which had not yet been taken on that fateful run, was losing battery power fast.
I sent a text to Yelena letting her know my situation. I phoned Trev and asked him to call our bank. I tried getting through to them myself, but the endless time on hold was eating my battery power. I remembered that there were computers at the library, and I had my charging cable with me, so off I went.
Meanwhile, Yelena had freaked out, phoned her husband, and directed him to find me at the taco place I’d had lunch in on Michigan Avenue. Unfortunately, I was gone by the time he got there, hoofing it down to the Harold Washington Library at Jackson and State, where I discovered that you now need a library card to use the computers. Obviously, I didn’t have one.
I went out onto the streets again, where it was starting to rain. Along the way, I tried my card at an ATM: Mr. Fabulous had managed to have them unfreeze it. And found a FedEx/Kinko’s where I could charge my phone, get on Facebook, and inform everyone that I was alive and would be able to get a train. Then I went out and looked at art deco buildings and bought myself a pair of highly impractical platform heels at Nordstrom Rack (which were marked down 90%, so don’t judge).
That was my mishap. I blame it on my bank, and on jet lag, and on the fact that I was emotionally distressed after leaving behind a very sad little girl at Heathrow. The three of us had driven down together, and Eve was excited by the bustle of the airport. You could see her little brain working: look at all the people! Airplanes! Are we going in an airplane? Hooray! Then I kissed them goodbye, and horror dawned in her tiny face: Mama is GOING AWAY.
She wailed unconsolably as Trev carried her off. I thought seriously about leaving the security line to go catch them for one more hug. Since I’ve come home, she’s been perfectly fine when we’re in the house, but if I go out of sight when we’re out in public, she turns on the tears, even yelling “Oh NO!”
I’m digressing. The rest of the trip was smoother. It was actually nice to not have the phone once it died, because I spent more time looking at things and writing than I did checking my e-mail or sending texts. I had a lot of quality time with Yelena, Alex, and Valerie– but nobody calls her Valerie, they call her Lera. If you’re not familiar with Russian culture, they love their nicknames. Crack open a Tolstoy novel and there’ll be a heroine who’s called Catherine formally, Katya by her parents, Kitty by someone else, and possibly even Koshenka (“little kitten”, I think) by an old lady who nursed her as a baby.
Lera is good fun. Like all four-and-a-half-year-old girls, she is a princess/gymnast/singer/fairy in-training. She also gets a strong mathematical/logical tendency from both sides of the family. Witness her choice of gifts for Eve: two baby dolls:
You will notice that Ms. Lera appears to champion what we might call the Jolie-Pitt approach to building a family. Yelena explained her daughter’s thought process thus:
“Lera knows that Eve lives in another country. She also knows that people who live in other countries often look different than we do, so she chose a doll that looks different.”
This is pretty sound reasoning. And Eve loves the doll to bits. We need to get these girls together, soon.