The trip to Chicago was good, bad, all mixed up together at the same time. Being with my son was fantastic. We were great travel companions. There wasn’t one moment between us that felt anything but easy and natural. It was his first train ride, and it was good to see my grown up 22-year-old son have the excitement of a child in his eyes when the train began to roll down the tracks.
The pace of our trip of relaxing. We had plenty of time to get settled once we arrived in the city. The Palmer House was fantastic as always. We dropped off our luggage and headed down for a lunch complete with Bloody Marys. We sat watching the world go by and marveling that this one hotel could hold twice the population of our little town.
After lunch, we wandered over to the school he is considering. We were early for our appointment, but that was OK. They were able to accommodate us, and we were able to move up our appointment time and take in the visit at leisurely pace. The studios and technological equipment were impressive. It seems like a perfect fit, and I could see the excitement in my son’s eyes. I saw something in him that I haven’t seen in years. He was enthusiastic. This was HIS choice, and his alone. He was the guiding force behind what brought us there that day, and I was so proud of that.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the city. We sat from time to time and simply watched the world passing by. Oh, yeah, the memories of past trips were weighing heavily on me. Time after time, I had to redirect my thoughts. The past is just that. The past is that part of my life that is now behind me. The pain of the past has been keeping me from creating newer happy memories. Like a bookmark in my life, my past has kept turning me back to that same page over and over.
We had dinner at one of my local favorites, and I was thrilled that my son enjoyed it as much as I had hoped he would. We wandered around some more and ended up back at the Palmer House lounge for a drink before bed. The two of us sat at the bar and talked, watched the people around us, and chatted with the bartender (one of our favorite things to do!) As we sat there, a woman (about my age) and a young man (around my son’s age) approached the bar. They stood behind us, and waited for the bartender. I smiled at them, and they smiled back. I’m not sure why, but we all began to talk to each other as they stood waiting. It was another mother and son traveling together! They were from Australia. We all hit it off immediately, and found a place to sit together. We had the nicest time getting to know this other Mother/Son. It had been a fantastic day, and we were smiling as we headed back up to our room. We were both worn out, and fell asleep almost immediately.
I woke up the next morning feeling better than I have in months. I had slept through the night! WOOOOHOOO! I hadn’t been able to sleep well for such a long time. I woke up feeling fresh and rested. I looked over at Andrew’s bed, and he was still sleeping. I needed to get out and walk. I wanted to enjoy these moment of feeling fresh, clean, happy, and free. I felt energized. I put my hair up into a ponytail and threw on a dress and flip flops. Yeah…it was my $12 beach dress, which didn’t feel quite the same in Chicago as it did in New Orleans.
I set out by myself, just wandering. I walked for a while, then I sat for a time watching the people and activity around me. I ended up in a tiny park by the art museum. I shouldn’t have wandered in that direction. It was as if the damn memories drew me to them. The park had three rows of benches. I sat on the middle row facing Michigan Avenue. I sat alone and remembered. I listened to the voice, and I cried. I wandered past the steps and the Lions, and I cried even more. I shook my fist at a fate that had betrayed me and my once-full heart. I hated the hope that has dogged me and pursued me until it almost killed me. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope is often seen as the thing that can keep a person going under the most adverse conditions. I’m sure that is true in some cases. Well, I am here to tell you that hope, if misguided, is something that can kill you. It almost got me. I have not doubt that it has taken the lives of others.
I forced myself away from the memories and back to the truth. My misguided hope did not kill me. I am tattered, broken, damaged, and changed. I am not the same woman who wandered this path three years ago. I liked her. I miss her. She didn’t know back then what she would ultimately be facing. She was trusting. She loved. This woman I have become does not trust. She does not easily love. Deep breaths helped me settle my head and my heart. It is what it is. Let it go. Let it go, and live your life. I pep-talked myself on my way back to my son.
Andrew had gone on a walk of his own. He was excited to tell me where he had gone and what he had seen. Once again, he helped me step back into my life. Yes, there is love. There are good things. My life is not over. In many ways, it is just beginning again. Slowly, very slowly, small moments at a time, I feel alive once again.