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An envisioning. . . windy Chicago afternoon in March of 1972 and a bench in the park.
Oh to be here.
Outing to the city to go shopping and have dinner. Nothing fun to buy and time to kill. A cab over to Lake Shore Drive and the hotel where great uncle worked.
Mother spending entire months with them. Twelve brothers and sisters and not living close to the fancy high school. Hard to get into but two hours each way. The other easier and home on weekends.
But the same park and hours spent. Great uncle having worked there doing something. No one being able to remember what, but there for decades and months and years spent sitting on the bench with her auntie waiting for him to finish. Better than sitting in the apartment but still. Watching people go in and out the front door and the chauffeurs opening and shutting the doors of their cars for what seemed like an eternity.
A long time ago and a car of her own long since. No chauffeur but only people way up on the North Shore having them anyway. But a good place to work it was. Fancy and the beach to go to.
Not supposed to but the manageress liking Mother’s aunt and letting her have her own cabana. Supposed to be only for guests but one down at the end where no one went. The big lady’s room with all its marble in the lobby to change in and out of one’s bathing suit and ice-cold sodas from the machine in the Housekeeping lounge. Books to sit in the sand and read and lunch out of a picnic basket.
Cannoli from the little bakery near the apartment and sand between one’s toes . . . .perfect . . . . a lifetime of Saturdays to come but none as wonderful as that one . . .
This is not my story. Rather it is the story of my good friend John S. who has entrusted me with it to share with you. It is the story of a gentleman who immigrated to America from Italy around the time of the first World War and made a life in Chicago for himself and his wife and family, working for years in a grand hotel with a little park opposite where they sat and waited for him.
Oh to be here
Four in the afternoon and the waitresses laying out the tablecloths at the Chilton Club. Fruitcake and whatever else.
Not as interesting as what they had back in Baltimore when Mother was a girl but what can one do. No work after the war and a need to move north. Odd accents and Irish girls for help instead of auntie’s mammy and her daughters.
Children playing in the park across the street. That the same even if there was more snow.
A husband who made money electrifying places and that a good thing what with everywhere wanting it. So more up to date than gasoliers and all that. Different things to use it for in the houses, though. Motors for punkah fans in Maryland and things that make furnaces get hotter for Yankees.
Children happy in either place. Enough money for a nurse or the other there. School much the same and the ladies just as fascinated by their forefathers.
Hard. A need not to say anything. Just as much as any of them and blood just as blue that went even further back in time. But the war come and gone and not much left.
A husband in trade. Good that Grandmother had died when that shell hit her what with those ideas of hers. But no. Better a husband who can make money instead of a minister husband who has nothing but a free house that belongs to his church.
What’s left from papa’s money after the merchant house collapsed when the cotton went someplace else. Diamonds, rubies and sapphires, and silver as glorious as anything in New York. But the war lost and just the trappings, not the real thing anymore.
A house but not like Grandfather’s house in Annapolis with its three ballrooms. No, just one ballroom and that with only a big enough alcove for a tiny orchestra and not even the best. Third best instead. . . the other something to dream of . . . . .but now for Earl Gray and a scone or two while the children ice skate and the husband dreams over his bourbon in the bar . . . . . .the rest for later and maybe never. . .