September visit to Chicago

As many of you doubtless know we were blessed with our first grandson, Jurgen, last June. We took a road trip out out to North Riverside (Chicago suburb) to meet him. We then brought our co-mother-in-law Jeanette (who lives in South Africa) back to Portland with us via the Grand Canyon. You can read through my June Posts and July Posts to refresh your memory of that awesome trip.

Before we even left  we were figuring out how and when to return. Henriët is a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus which is part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. They opened their season with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the Ode to Joy which meant she’d be at rehearsals in the evenings before Andrew would be home from work. Rather than having them get a baby sitter so soon we volunteered visit for a week to help them transition through the rough spots. Although Carla is fully retired, I am not, so a road trip was out of the question; we flew in order to maximize our helping time.

Andrew and Jurgen drove out to O’Hare to pick us up when we arrived and we loaded up the car and headed to their lovely house in North Riverside. We came bringing gifts in the form of baby clothes. We have a friend, Diane, whose third child is about 9 months older than Jurgen. We brought a couple of boxes of things last June and we brought a whole duffel bag of baby clothes with us on this trip. At this age, kids grow out of their clothes after wearing them just a few times so hand-me-downs are awesome.

Once we got there, Carla started cooking and cleaning. I think we helped them catch a little bit of a rest. I’d forgotten the reality of working with an infant. That little 3 month old exhausted four grown adults! But it was worth every minute of it.

We were so loaded down with clothes I decided against bringing my camera gear. They have a lovely Canon S100 camera I figured I’d use in a pinch. It turns out that infants don’t wait for you to get a camera to do something cute; that is the reason so many baby pictures come to us nowadays via iPhones – they are almost always available.

Andrew and Jurgen playing
Andrew and Jurgen playing

Jurgen is a happy baby. He’s been smiling for weeks now; we really got him laughing a few times. One day while we were cooking and Jurgen was hanging in his chair in the corner of the kitchen, Carla made a big swooping motion throwing her hands wide and saying “Whoosh”; wow did that get him going. I joined in; Henriët said it’s the most she’d ever seen him laugh. Here we see him playing in his new 4-in-1 “activity center”. As he lies on his back, he looks up at various things hanging down from a couple of spongy cross bars. I’d push a cross bar until a toy was just over his head then let it spring away. He loved it. LOVED IT.

Jurgen having a blast playing with the grownups.
Jurgen having a blast playing with his new 4-in-1 toy

It wasn’t all laughter all the time. In the morning we’d pick him up after he nursed so Henriët could get a bit more sleep. Our friends Norm and Paula Gunning had a garage sale at the end of the summer and as I wandered over Paula said she had something for me; it was a lovely little book about things a boy does with his grand father: flying kites, watching the stars, that type of stuff. So of course I had to read it to him. Can you tell I’m running on a couple of cups of coffee to keep me rolling?

Grandpa Thompson reading "My Grandpa and Me" to  Jurgen.
Grandpa Thompson reading “My Grandpa and I” to Jurgen.

A more posed picture of Henriët and Jurgen. He’s not too sure about Cameras and other black boxes shoved in his face.

Henriët and Jurgen
Henriët and Jurgen

Carla and Jurgen; What a great grandma! And a perfect grandson

Carla and Jurgen
Carla and Jurgen

We wanted to see Henriët perform and we were able to tickets to the symphony for the gala opening night (it was the only night with tickets available). It was Carla’s birthday so we splurged. We went into town with Henriët and entered through the musician’s entrance.

Henriët posing next to the symphony poster.
Henriët posing next to the symphony poster.
Henriët pointing herself out in the poster.
Henriët pointing herself out in the poster.

In general I like Classic music as long as it is the first of two words “Classic Rock”; in other words I’m not a huge fan, but neither do I harbor antipathy for it. It was Carla’s birthday and I take any chance to  hear my beautiful, talented daughter-in-law sing. Previous to this event I had heard the Ode To Joy twice and enjoyed it both times; it’s one of my favorite pieces. I think of it as “Classic Classical Music”. Our seats were up in the 6th balcony and I had a few minutes of vertigo as we walked down the steep pitched steps to our seats. I read the program to keep from focusing on just how high up we were.

Because it was the first program of the season the orchestra and chorus started with the National Anthem; I’ve never heard it performed so well. I turned to Carla and said “we are in for something special tonight”. Because I had read the program notes I was able to follow along with what I had read. The chorus sings in the long symphony-within-a-symphony fourth movement. The whole piece was beautiful, but that fourth movement with a world class orchestra and world class chorus gave me goose bumps and brought Carla to tears. It was simply magnificent.

The next morning was Sunday so the five of us went to church; Andrew and Henriët recently joined the Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation They meet in a temple designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We were impressed by the congregations focus on social justice and community involvement. I think they’ve found a nice church home.

Andrew and Henriët outside Unity Temple, the home of their Chicago Universalist Church
Andrew and Henriët outside Unity Temple, the home of their Chicago Universalist Church

We had a lovely breakfast after church, then returned to their place to enjoy the rest of the weekend. Monday morning Andrew had to go back to work and Carla’s and my flight would take us home that evening. It was a lovely trip and we are planning on returning for Christmas when they’ll have another set of gigs. I’ve never been to Chicago in the winter and I’m already lining up my long underwear!

The Austin sisters: Carla, Linda, and Starr all have grandchildren now – born within a year of one another. Here are Jurgen’s second cousins from this side of the family.

Parker is just at one year now and is developing into kid. He’s as good looking as his mom and dad.

Parker - Linda's grandson
Parker – Linda’s grandson

Carson was a premie; she is a strong fighter and came home from the NICU a week or so ago. Here she is at 30 weeks after conception. All she needs is lots of holding and cuddling from her mom and dad.

Carson - Starr's granddaughter
Carson – Starr’s granddaughter

What? Chicago without train pictures? Surely not! No worries; I’ve got a whole post from my last morning in town in a separate post.

7 thoughts on “September visit to Chicago

  1. I loved every word, Howard ! Dankie, dankie, dankie ! I only have to read your blog – sit back and enjoy the world through your eyes ! I never have to lift a finger – it feels as if I have been there too. I am so glad I have met you via Henriët – coming from a from a small town in South Africa – meeting Andrew and then we all became part of each other – the world is indeed a very small place. Mooibly ! Engela en kie

  2. Very nice Howard! We have the same book you were reading to Jurgen 🙂 I can’t believe they let Carson go home so early! Our Andrew was born at 29 weeks and they kept him in the NICU for 6-8 weeks. She looks great! cm

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.