Monday, October 6, 2008


So Friday evening I'd just gotten home from work when my mom called, seeing what my plans were for the weekend. Since it was conference weekend I told her I didn't really make any plans.
She and my dad were in Chicago for the weekend, as my dad had a convention during the day Fri, Sat, and Sun. My mom had gone along, to hang out and shop during the day, and so they could spend some time together away from home at night. My dad got them tickets to see Jersey Boys Saturday night. Jersey Boys is my favorite show, and I'd been talking it up the last year and a half. I was nervous I'd oversold it but they ended up loving it and said it exceeded expectations!
Anyway, my mom called to try to convince me to fly out on a whim to spend the days with her, and I obliged!
It was a whirlwind of a trip, and I was only there less than 36 hours, which is why I didn't have a lot of time to let anyone know I was there. (Sorry KB!)
I flew out Saturday morning and was picked up by my parents. After we went by the hotel for breakfast we dropped my dad and his coworker off at their convention and we headed out for a fun day.
We headed to Long Grove for craft central. My mom was in heaven. A few of the shops were fun but I definitely don't have as much ambition to see so much like my mom does! It was fun to just be together, enjoy the crisp and sunny fall weather, and people watch. It's funny how everywhere you go people really do look like they belong together.
I enjoyed the slow paced midwestern lifestyle. Everyone was so friendly, and it was just pleasant. A nice break from my life in New York. Oh yeah, and my mom and I got a funnel cake with apples on top that was to DIE FOR. Seriously, best elephant ear I've ever had.

The leaves were just starting to change.

I love the beautiful scenery. It's always so weird to be able to see for miles. No buildings, and no mountains or hills. I love the sky in this picture.

After we'd been in Long Grove a few hours we headed to my old neighborhood, Naperville. I haven't been back since we moved 15 years ago (other than a quick trip right after the move) so I was so excited to see everything.
Just as I remembered, there were geese everywhere. Seriously, they just hang out everywhere. It's so funny and so cute. I took this picture behind my elementary school. I remember there were always so many geese hanging out back there, just to the left of the big hill we used to go sledding on during the winter, which is still there.

From what I could tell, May Watts had not changed at all. Honestly everything looked just how I left it 15 years ago. The playground was the same also, except looked so much smaller to me now.

As you'll (soon) see, my mom wanted to take a million pictures of me so I started to get creative with my poses.

My old house! I thought it looked so great. They've changed the color of the shutters, and put a fence up in the backyard, and also added an addition to the house behind the garage, but so much of the rest of it was the same. I remember watching my parents take photos of my sister next to that tree on the left when she went to her first high school dance with a cute boy who was so nice.
It was really crazy to see how much had been built beyond our neighborhood. I remember after Book Road there was nothing but corn fields, however now it's all commercialized. Also, the old run down house at the corner of the neighborhood which was sort of the token "haunted house" has now turned into a beautiful mansion. Someone definitely saw the diamond in the rough. I can't believe I didn't take a picture. The house is so amazing now.

Our old mailbox. Still the same.

I remember watching my brothers shovel snow off that driveway during the winters, and helping my dad wash the car during the summers. The second window from the right on the second story was my bedroom. I remember a few times we climbed out onto the roof and just hung out. I finally confessed that to my mom. Looking at the front lawn reminded me how we used to let Taffy hang out on her rope. She just loved watching all the kids walking home from school during the week. She was so happy there.

Our little neighborhood had really been kept up so nice. It was interesting to look at it through different eyes now. Being there brought back a lot of memories. It's funny to think how my friends and I ran around, acting like we owned the neighborhood, totally fearless. We drove by a few of my friends' old houses, and even got together with some old friends on Sunday.
There's such a sense of community there. My mom and I noticed the houses with the little 8.5x11 paper with a hand, the "helping hand" which meant the people living in that house belonged to a special group in the community. We were taught as kids if we ever needed help it was safe to knock on the front door of one of these houses, as they weren't a "stranger" and they could help us.
All the trees were so beautiful, and the houses so well maintained. I found myself really impressed, as I sort of thought things would seem not quite as "nice", to be honest, just thinking about how young my parents were when they bought that house over twenty years ago, with a young family. I could definitely see the appeal of raising a family in the slower paced life of the midwest. Everyone knows their neighbors, and as weird as it seems, I loved how most the people still don't have fences in their back yards. It really helps you to get to know everyone around you. I just kept thinking how everything was so accessible. All the schools were close, all the playgrounds, grocery store and drug store, even the church. Just so family friendly. I had so many memories of so many friends I haven't thought about in so long, when we drove around the neighboring streets. I was reminded about the day camp I went to during the summer where we made crafts, and also spending 4th of July together as a family, at a nearby park to watch fireworks. While driving through downtown Naperville I remembered The Last Fling, which was a fair that came into town every year at the end of the summer.
I also thought a lot about our little doggy, Taffy, as we got her about a year after living in Chicago, and had her for 16 years. We drove past Murphy's house, her little husband we breeded her with. They had three cute little puppies which were so fun.

Here's the little pond a little ways behind the elementary school where I used to go fishing with my brothers sometimes.

This was one of my favorite parks where I played. I remember it was a "really far walk" but in reality, was maybe a quarter of a mile. Funny how things change.

I couldn't help myself.

I even took a jump off. You're right Elise, definitely more scary now than when I was 7.

Other than the removal of the death trap merry-go-round (which was maybe the most fun,) not a thing had changed from the playground.

We drove by the park where my brothers played Little League and, again, so many memories came flooding of watching my brothers play. The sign above was on the concession stand where they had so many yummy snacks. I remember playing wall ball there, and also playing for endless hours on the nearby playground. Also, I remember sitting in the announcer's booth with some boys who'd let me occasionally announce the next player at bat. So fun.

Then we headed down to the River Walk, one of my favorite places as a kid.

One of my absolute favorite things to do was to go feed the ducks. So fun! I was so sad we didn't have any bread with us.

All the little duckies were in couples. So cute!

The River Walk is so great. So family friendly, peaceful, and fun.

There were more Saturdays than I can count where I went with my dad to pick up his dry cleaning, and then he'd give me some change to get some candy at the candy shop a few stores down. Then we'd head over and wash the car, and finish up by getting something to eat at Grandma Sally's. I always got the Mickey Mouse pancakes. These memories are treasures to me. I was so sad my dad had to work, but my mom and I did go eat there. I think it was my mom's first time. Everything was the same, including the man who stood at the host station. He's one of the three greek owners. I was sad when I didn't see the Mickey Mouse pancakes on the menu anymore, but on the way out noticed a children's menu, which had the pancakes. Apparently I didn't realize I had a "special" menu as a child. :) Our server was so friendly and sweet. When I asked for ice in my orange juice she said she'd bring it on the side in a separate cup because they charge "2 whole dollars" for orange juice and she didn't want me to get ripped off. I laughed and told her where I was from, and that $2 was a steal! Not only that, but my huge meal of pancakes, eggs, hash browns, and bacon was $5.75!! Love it.

The old carwash my dad and I'd go to.

Our old church. Not the best photo, as we were just driving by. I'd totally forgotten there was a McDonald's next door (not pictured.) I remember hopping the fence with my friends and getting ice creams.

My mom and I were like little kids in Fannie May, SUCH better candy than See's.
Just a funny water tank with a rose on it on the way to the airport I remember looking for as a kid.

I flew back in to LaGuardia, and, once again, sat on the left side of the plane by the window where you get an amazing view of the city when you fly in. This is obviously a blurry photo, but it was so cool because as we were flying in there were fireworks! I could tell they were coming from the South Street Seaport, just a few blocks from my apartment. You can see the Brooklyn Bridge on the right side of the photo. Nice to be welcomed home by such a production. :)

It was a great trip down memory lane, and I can't wait till this weekend when I'll go even further down memory lane, to Kansas City....


Elise said...

wow! this was such a fun post to read.

i have heard so, so many stories about naperville and it was fun to actually see all of the places. i love your old house, the river walk and the pretty leaves. this (and when jason talks about stories from growing up) makes me want to pack up and move to the midwest. seriously.

you should have taken a picture of the pizza hut or chi chi's that you guys used to eat at on sundays.

i'm jealous of your trip. i really, really want to go to chicago.

and i am glad that you jumped off the swing...

katherine said...

No stress--I figured for whatever reason you were there it was a quick trip. So fun to see your old stomping grounds!

Nerak said...

I totally didn't know you lived here. I thought you were a CA girl through and through. Thank goodness for blogging to clear up these misconceptions.

Ps Merry-go-rounds were indeed deathtraps. They were also RIDICULOSLY fun.

Maria said...

So much fun! Why did we love to feed the ducks so much?

lynette said...

Ice with Orange juice.... I love it!!!!

kate mcneil said...

Loved this post! I miss my hometown too and rarely get to visit it these days. But it's really nice to know things do stay the same.

Debbie said...

What a great weekend we had, honey! Thanks for being kind of girl! I will treasure the memory always! Still haven't broken the news yet to Grandma about the pass....yikes!!! Oh well, better to ask for forgiveness than permission, right?
Love Always,

Marcus and Amy said...

I have family that lives in Naperville...what a fun weekend for you!

michellekae said...

That looks like you had a lot of fun. You are looking so good too! Miss you!

Bradia said...

Ahhhhh Pizza Hut............I wonder if that lady ever fully recovered from that one 'incident'

Steve and Rebecca said...

I just spent 1/2 hour reading this blog and looking at all the was so fun!!! Thanks for taking pictures of our old house, the riverwalk, church, was great to see everything...glad you, Mom and Dad had a good trip.

Trish said...

You are such a cutie patootie!! And those skinny jeans--tres chic. :) Sounds like you guys had a fabulous time in Chicago and the weather looks perfect.