“Where Are You?”


So asked an anonymous reader.  Forgive me, I’ve been on vacation.  I know I usually let you know before I go, but as I have revealed nearly everything there is to know about me, it seemed somehow unwise to skip town for nine days and alert total strangers in advance.  I mean, I’m going to seminars on this kind of thing for my eleven year old.

Anyway, it was a bit of a blog debacle.  I had half-way prepared posts in advance, but then left my notes in the car, which ended up in “the satellite garage.”  It’s not that it could not be retrieved, it just seemed like so much trouble.  I hated to ask.
To fill you in, we loaded up the boys and headed out for a nine day driving tour of the Midwest.  My idea, of course.  Mr. Blandings’s idea was to go to Cascade, Colorado, only he’s been having that idea for the last sixteen years.  We haven’t gone every year, but a conservative estimate would be, say, ten times.  Maybe twelve.  I just thought, it might be fun to do something different.

Gorilla, Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo.
One of the tricky things about being married is the finding a balance in the way to do things.  Generally, if both people are engaged and conscious, each has a “right” way for things to be done.  When to open Christmas presents whether eve or morning, the amount of hoopla a birthday deserves from minimal to Big Mamoo and where to go on vacations.  I’ve noticed a lot of folks “always” go to fill-in-the-blank.  And that is right and everything else is wrong.  Not nearly as good.  In fact, bad.

Hydrogen bomb, Omaha Strategic Air Command Museum.

My family, or my divided family, took the other route.  We went somewhere different nearly every time.  One of my earliest vacation memories is the last trip my parents took together.  We lived in Atlanta and drove up the entire east coast to Canada then back down, slightly west, culminating in lost car keys in, maybe Alabama that required two of us flying back (me and my dad) to make the Donny Osmond concert while two of us waited to receive the overnighted spare keys to drive back (my mom and two year old sister, the key loser.)  My parents separated three months later, but I’m sure that is a coincidence.

My proposal to Mr. Blandings was north to Omaha to see the zoo and the Strategic Air Command Museum, northeast to Dubuque to visit college friends, southeast to Chicago for the bulk of the trip and then south to St. Louis before we headed home.  

Wrong.  Folly.  But as he has been raised by lovely people he simply ignored the plan for a few weeks.  Like all things that are unspeakable, he hoped it would go away.  Instead, I pushed on with reservations and maps and house-sitters. 
The day of, resigned, he loaded the car and off we went.  Left to Blandings, my children might never see a big city.  It’s not discussed, so much, but big cities seem to be avoided.  Which could be fine, except I love big cities.  My adrenaline jumps at just the thought of a city vacation.  I adore the energy and the options.  The boys had not been to a big city and I thought Chicago was a fine place to start.  

New butterfly exhibit, Omaha Zoo.

But first to Omaha and the Zoo was amazing and Strategic Air Command was particularly fabulous if you are a boy and think war is heroics and bravery and glory.
Dubuque was the best.  I had made unfortunate hotel reservations over the protests of our friends.  “Stay here!  We have room!”  They said it again and again, but I worried.  There are five of us.  Five.  And three of us are unruly, poorly disciplined, boys.  I feared they would loathe us at the end of three days.

Chicago Science and Industry Museum, submarine exhibit.

 But the hotel room was a problem.  Unruly and poorly mannered next-door-neighbors made themselves known at 1 a.m of our first night.  Mr. Blandings and I lay awake listening to the untoward scene next door, unable to call the management to complain as the boys were thankfully sleeping though it.  To make the phone call might wake them.  Better for them not to hear.  So, on night two, we accepted the gracious invitation and moved our brood in.  

Playing in the Mississippi.

I adore children and the fact that they can be life-long friends in the manner of three minutes.  Of course, our hosts offered a relaxed and honest hospitality that I hope someday to be able to repay.

Mississippi River.
Chicago.  Chicago is easy. It’s big and offers all the big city things – museums and restaurants and mass transit – without being so hard. Chicago is Midwest. It folds you in. People everywhere, one on one, are mostly the same. In Manhattan, Kansas and Manhattan, New York some people are nice and some people are not. The difference is how people are en masse. In New York you do have to prove a bit. In Chicago, you don’t. I don’t want the boys to think cities are scary; I want them to think they are exciting.
Upon returning, when asked, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” they all replied, “The hotels and the food.”  Lots of pizza and french fries.  But they loved Chicago.  

Chicago Science and Industry Museum, glass exhibit, Frank Lloyd Wright windows.
The Shedd and the Field Museum and the beach and the Cubs game.  Each admitted they could live there someday.
Chicago Field Museum, Sue, the largest, most complete, best preserved T Rex discovered to date.

The train was an adventure, but no more so than cabs.  Cabs are like Space Mountain except you don’t have to wait in line as long.  

A stop at the beach on the way back from Navy Pier.

I have to admit, I wanted to by-pass St. Louis.  The whole trip seemed one day too long and I was longing for home.  And Rosie.  We offered it up, but the boys, seasoned travelers now, insisted on St. Louis.  We basically ate, slept and saw the Arch, but it was worth it.  The Arch was gleaming and majestic and so much darn bigger than you think it is. 

St. Louis Arch.
So, home again just in time for the dentist and orthodontist and back to school.  I don’t think Mr. Blandings will be filing today, though he always seems to have an “early meeting” the Monday following a vacation.

But that’s ok.  It’s just how we do things.
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23 thoughts on ““Where Are You?”

  1. thanks for taking us on your vacation, mrs b.- looks like it was loads of fun!

    some of my fondest childhood memories are the road trip vacations my parents took us on every summer (one included st. louis and the arch as well). like your adorable boys, i thought the hotels and motels we stayed in were the best part of the adventure too- especially if they had a pool!

  2. Dear Mrs. B. — If you grew up in a big city, like I did, they imprint you first and nothing can ever take their place. I’ve lived in small town (the one at the top of your map, just west of Milwaukee) for many years but I always want a big city vacation. Luckily my husband pretty much feels the same. Your combo of cities and events sounds like a treat. And, you are right, Chicago is the perfect intro for the boys. It is still Sandburg’s city but so much more. Hope the boys got a chance to roll around under “The Bean” in Millennium Park.

  3. Oh, Mrs. B., soooo glad you’re back. We missed you! Glad you had a great time. Family vacations will be some of the best memories your boys have of their childhood.

  4. Hi Mrs.Blandings
    Welcome back! Looks like you & your family had a wonderful time! I'm starting to plan our vacation & hubby & I are having the same predicament! Did you have a chance to check out Alessandra Branca new shop?

  5. m21 – how did you know? The pools were also a big hit. What’s new, perhaps, since your childhood trips and surely mine, is the breakfast buffet. Fruit Loops! They were in heaven.

  6. mrs. wis – so glad you and the mr. are of the same mind. I have some kind of latent gene as I come from a long line of, if not city haters, at least city avoiders. We’ll see if any of the boys pick it up.

  7. Lisa – in further Lucille Ball-style, I thought I was going to Branca’s shop only to end up at a distributorship. The shop is not listed in the phone book, and I did not find it immediately on line. By the time I figured out the correct location, we were out of time. It was not a great trip for me to get out and about, but I was so disappointed to miss it. It was one of very few things on my list.

  8. Looks like loads of fun… We made a big detour to see the Arch on a cross-country trip and I am so glad I did. It was so much more than I could have imagined.

    I am like you, too… a city person. The idea of living in the suburbs or in the country fills me with horror. I don’t even like driving in the country because there are no street signs or street lights. I know that in the city, regardless of which one, I can get anywhere.

  9. Jennifer – Mr. Blandings would surely call this a “trip.” Vacations are something a bit different. 🙂 But we had a blast and I think the boys do feel they had an adventure.

  10. Meg – I can go rural for very short amounts of time. The other funny thing is, I’m more nervous in the country because I feel so isolated. Mr. B thinks I’m crazy.

  11. Gee, you would hate our vacations with a passion. We like to be the only people on the road, with a gale blowing in, heading to an inn on a cliff above the sea where a warm bed awaits us. With no cell phone.

    Of course, that being said, I do absolutely adore London and could stay there weeks without running short of delight. So, there you go.

  12. pt&e – I'm sure I'd adore it if I gave it a try. I will say, my family was shocked at my tie to the laptop – and I was trying so hard to stay away!

  13. Good for you Mrs. B! Your adventure will be long remembered by those boys. You have plenty of years in your future for a relaxing vacation. This was perfect for now!!! Proud of you!!!

  14. O- what a grand time! Always fun to venture and do something new, go where no man has gone before.
    We like returning to same spots too but do love to shake things up with new vistas.

  15. Well, St. Louis of course. I’m sorry you missed our zoo..it’s not only wonderful it’s free. Also our Bontanical Gardens is glorious. I’ll be in Chicago for the Jazz fest over Labor Day. I wish I could have given you a heads up about the minature rooms at the Chicago Art Institute. They are not to be believed. I’m sure you can probably google them. I hope to get there and see them again.

  16. stljoie – Of course we knew we were missing many terrific thing in St. Louis. One friend told us we could spend 4 days just there. We were weary. Same with Chicago, simply not enough time to see everything and not run the boys right into the ground.

    While you are in Chicago, if you have a chance, try avec – a very tiny and absolutely amazing restaurant. I’d read about it and when we had had enough kid food to push me over the edge, we hopped in a cab and headed over. They were even gracious and lovely about our having brought three unruly boys with us (we went very early.) Hope it is a great trip!

  17. Wow, sounds like a busy summer for you! I just find it so hard to keep up with post in the Summer, glad to see you back!!

    ~Kate

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