In a couple of weeks, I'll get to see my Chicago again. This time, I'll get to see it through the eyes of my 6-year old nephew Joshua. It'll be Joshua's first plane ride. And his first visit to Chicago.
Yes, I will show him tall things galore and a whole lot of water. Probably a museum or two. Pizza will be eaten.
Wondering about what he may or may not remember from his upcoming Chicago trip--has made me reflect upon the things that I'd experienced by the age of 6. Looking at the list (which could always stand to be expanded), I realize that several of my life's most "dynamic" moments had already transpired by this point.
By age 6:
-I'd taken my first airplane ride--when we moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. I would search the skies, thinking that every subsequent airplane I saw was carrying my Abuelitos from Chicago. I treasured their visits.
-I'd had a pet parakeet who spoke Spanish. Rudolph, our green budgie. He retained a slew of Spanish phrases and would repeat them throughout the day. His linguistic skills were interspersed with his ability to leave his cage, fly to the top of your chair, hop on your shoulder, and travel down your arm to your plate--where he'd eat a bit of whatever you were eating. We brought him and his female companion with us from Chicago. She was a blue and white budgie named Snow White. But she had no special talents compared to Rudolph.
-I'd felt lots of love. From my parents and my grandparents and my big sister. My Uncle Tony. My teachers.
-I'd made lots of friends in my new neighborhood. Like Angela and Birdie and Alicia and the list goes on…
-I began realizing what I liked. (In college, during my studies for my teaching credential, I learned that a person's personality is essentially formed by the age of 4). For me, by the age of 5, I knew that I loved to laugh. LOVED to laugh. I knew this, in part, because I loved being around Mike Morishita in my kindergarten class. He was a fun-loving guy with a little light inside of him--and a contagious laugh. I also knew that I liked Mark Cervantes (enough to plant a kiss on his cheek--as we waited for our names to come up on flash cards at Graham Cracker Time).
-I loved the music of Tony Orlando and Dawn. So much so that my mom signed me up for their fan club, and to this day, I still have the plastic yellow LP keychain that they sent as a member gift.
-I knew that I loved my wonderful first grade teacher Mrs. Sachs, whom I still see periodically. I'm not proud to say that when I was her student, I once stole a sheet of scratch and sniff stickers from her.
-I saw my first award: $10 for my disco dance solo at the school's dance contest. My sister Marie (Joshua's mom) and I would often disco dance as partners to the music of Donna Summer. Most notably, the song, "Dim all the Lights." We had no idea what the song was about--and now we laugh about the fact that we would blast it over and over again.
-I emceed my first school program. It was called, "What's New at the Zoo?"--and I wore a long yellow polyester dress which my Grandma Lucy had made for me.
-I didn't know it at the time, but at the age of 6, I had already met some of my life-long friends-- like Lisa Jang (since kindergarten), Tony Chiu (since about 1st grade), and the list goes on…
-I'd traveled on Amtrak from L.A. to Chicago. I was about 5 years old and we were going to visit family--after we'd already moved to L.A. Everything was going fine on the trip until I got the mother of all nosebleeds--and the blood just wouldn't stop. Suffice it to say that the conductor relayed the message to my mom--that they were willing to stop the train in Kansas City, where an ambulance would meet us at the station. She said no--that she didn't know anyone in Kansas City--and that we should just proceed onward to Chicago. The bleeding ultimately stopped.
-I'd learned the joy of a lazy Saturday or Sunday. Marie and I would watch the Cubs game on tv with Grandpa Albert, as he sipped a highball and ate cashews. I don't think I can ever eat a cashew without remembering my Abuelito.
-I'd been courted. Gino from down the street would walk over to 4111 N. Damen to chat with me as I sat with Grandma Lucy on her front steps.
-I knew that Chicago was a walking city. I remember walking with Grandpa to Sun-Drugs near Damen and Irving Park--and getting a box of Sno-Caps.
-I was on public transit. Mommy, Grandma, Marie, and I would ride the bus downtown to go to the sidewalk sales.
There are countless memories--formed by the tender age of 6.
Up to this point, I know that my little Joshua has seen a lot of Southern California. Downtown L.A., where his dad has worked. San Diego. The mountains. The beaches. Monster trucks and dinosaurs and Nintendo Wii and Star Wars and Scooby-Doo and ice cream. He has known lots of love. He has already faced challenges, being the little brother of sweet Jeffrey, who has autism (and thus can't take the trip with us).
I hope that he is already remembering how much his Auntie Liz loves him. I hope that he will remember how it feels to look up and be surrounded by Chicago. I hope that he remembers that there is more to the world than just the corner in which he lives.
So, I'll let you know what he thinks of my Chicago.
In the meantime, try to remember, from time to time, what it was like to be 6.
Lest the luster ever wear off the skyscraper or the glimmer off the waves of the lake.
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