How we spent our summer vacation

Last week we -- being Chris, the girls and I; Amy; and Chris's parents -- set out for Chicago and its suburbs to attend a reunion of Claudia's family, the Podgornys. Chris was born in Hammond, Indiana, just south of Chicago, and lived there until he was about seven. He described the region -- in fact, people call it "The Region" -- as the "Industrial Armpit of the Midwest." Both of his grandfathers and many other assorted family members worked for the steel mills (one worked in the Cook County jail and once turned the key on Capone). There was a great deal of nostalgia about this trip -- eating at White Castle, getting Green Rivers at Schoop's; driving past the spot on well-traveled Calumet Avenue where Chris, then three, fell out of the car and narrowly avoided being killed. We saw his and Amy's elementary school, and the Dairy Bee where they got ice cream, and the cute little house where they grew up.

We stayed with Claudia's cousin, Kathy, and her husband Don, who live on a farm in Lowell, Indiana. The farm was the opposite of industrial; it was quite lovely. It had all kinds of trees, and a pond, and big pastures where their horses, Beau and Skip, grazed. Kathy's grandchildren, Sophie (8) and Alex (5), were there, and my girls had a wonderful time climbing trees and swinging on willow branches and catching fireflies with them. Phoebe loved riding Skip the horse; Mallory, not so much, but she did help with grooming.

Both of them loved Teddy, the Wire Fox Terrier. He was a very good dog, the kind of dog that makes me want another dog (but only if it would be as well-behaved as he was).

Our first day there, we went to the Indiana Dunes, off the shores of Lake Michigan. "It's just like the beach!" we were told, so the last thing we Atlantic-coast dwellers expected when we got there was a really long hike prefaced by this foreboding sign:

Strenuous doesn't begin to describe it; by the time we reached the top of the dune, we were all about to pass out. This is the view from the other side; it doesn't begin to do justice to how steep it was.

The Dunes also featured this lovely view:

The sand was gritty and really hot, and there was about two feet of really sharp pebbles right before you got to the water. And the water was freezing.

In spite of these troubles, the kids had fun. Mallory swam all over the place in spite of the temperatures:

The next day was the reunion. We got all dressed up and went to a banquet hall in Hegewisch, a neighborhood of Chicago. (Incidentally -- I don't know how anyone knows where they are in The Region. It's just a string of endlessly changing townships and suburbs. St John, Cedar Lake, Munster, Lansing, Highland, Hammond, Griffith -- every two blocks you were in a different place. Hegewisch is where Claudia's mom grew up; the story goes that Hegewisch girls were so beautiful that the conductor of the South Shore Line called out "Hollywood!" when the train reached Hegewisch station.)

Here we are reuniting with family members! Kind of.

I bought fancy shoes for both of the girls; both pairs were discarded within the first hour. Luckily I had the foresight to bring along some flip flops for them. They looked nice anyway:

Mallory got to hold newborn Mia, her third or fourth cousin. This was probably the highlight of the trip for my baby-loving girl:

Music was provided by a real-life polka band. Phoebe danced the polka with Auntie Mimi:

The next day we hit the big city! I'll tell you about it later.


aimee said...

That's a good trip! And great pictures!! I wish I lived on a farm like that with two horses!