Day 82: Chicago, Wrigley Field, the Cubs, and Hello Kitty

An ‘L’ flag flies over Wrigley Field after each loss.

Wednesday was a day of anticipation. It was the day I had been dreading all summer – the final day of summer vacation and my last day of ‘freedom’ until next year’s summer vacation begins. The kids had been waiting for the day since I told them about my planned trip to the city and the Cubs game, and Beth had been looking forward to it as it meant my ‘home invasion’ was over! Nevertheless, it was here and it was gonna be a great day, a million and six time better than the day before.

Travelling to the city and around the city is a hassle. Traffic on the freeway is never fun and finding a parking space is always difficult. Earlier this summer, Warren and I marveled at the Parisian drivers and their knack for driving and getting around. There is no wonder why there are so many scooters and motorcycles in Paris. But, Chicago is a different city and the cars are much larger here. We opted to take the train and then use the bus and ‘El’ to get around. William and I have been to a Cubs, and Sox game as well, together before, but this would be Beth and Olivia’s first trip to Wrigley Field.

Our plan was to take the 9.54 to the city – sort of like to ‘8:15 to the city’ by BTO from my teen years, and it was on time. We boarded and found four seats together and settled in for the almost hour-long ride. Olivia had a window seat and watched the towns, rail yards, and other scenery pass by. At each stop the train, more people boarded and became more crowded. After surveying several passengers bound for the game, Beth remarked she was not dressed for a Cubs game – she needed some Cubbie wear. It might be difficult, she grew up a Reds fan and I grew up an Astros fan. The train arrived on time and we headed out to catch the ‘El.’ The ‘El’ is the elevated train, where it gets its nickname from, in Chicago – though parts are underground the name still sticks. We got our single day passes and made our way to the ‘El’ where we found the friendliest station attendant who gave us directions and pointed us in the right direction. It took us above the city around the ‘loop’ in downtown and across the river, north to Wrigley Field.

The train arrived at Wrigley Field and we got off and climbed down to street level. Game time was more than an hour away and there was quite a bit of activity around the stadium. Wrigley occupies one city block and it was busy. It is an old ballpark built in 1914 and it is full of history. It was only in the last twenty years or so that night games were allowed because they did not have lights. We walked around to the main entrance, produced our tickets, and the kids received wristbands to run the bases at the end of the game! How cool is that? We all got commemorative key chains with authentic Wrigley Field dirt, too.

Beth and Olivia pose before the game with the scoreboard in the background

The Cubs were playing the San Diego Padres and they were still taking batting practice, so we walked toward their dugout to watch. Olivia took her pen and scorecard down to the wall and waited. She small enough she can wriggle in to almost any place and she did. We watched as the Padres took batting practice and the pitchers warmed up and worked out. At the end of batting practice, only one player came over to sign and Olivia got the scorecard signed. Chris Young came over to sign and greet fans. He was very patient and signed for several minutes. I later discovered he has been on the DL (Disabled List) all season long and is trying to work back into playing shape. Once he was gone we worked our way to our seats on the left field side and under the shade.

Part of attending a baseball game is having hot dog (or two), cracker jacks, and peanuts while watching the game unfold. Part of the charm of Wrigley is its size it is small and the filed seems close. I grew up watching baseball in the Astrodome and it is huge. Other parks such as Candlestick and Oakland-Alameda Stadium are equally as large; by comparison, Wrigley is small, close, and intimate. You can feel the action and it seems you are on the field.

The announcer introduced the lineups and filled out the lineup card as the names were read off. We stood for the national Anthem and I sang along while everyone stood and faced the flag in the outfield. Then “Play ball,” and the game began. The Padres grabbed the lead, scoring two runs in the first inning, and we watched as the Cubs tried to catch up. The Padres were by far the better team and pounded the Cub pitchers with eleven hits and five runs. I kept score. Olivia helped and then we passed the scorecard to William and I taught him how to keep score. He told he really liked it and it helped him pay attention, I agreed chuckling to myself. It is why I do it, I thought to myself. Self-awareness is the key to learning and growing. By the ninth inning, it was time to find our way to the right field and William and Olivia’s appointment with running the bases at Wrigley. I have never been on a professional field of any kind much less a sacred place like Wrigley.

We waited patiently in line to go out onto the field. Parents were allowed to walk with their kids and I stayed with them. Olivia was reluctant to run the bases and I challenged her to a race – she could race me – I would walk to home from first and she could run from the bases from first to home. I told her I would win, but she did! Beth watched from the stands and took pictures of the two coming onto the field and then running from first to second, then to third and on to home. They had a blast as did all the kids who ran the bases. It was a special day.

After the bases running players were supposed to come out and sign autographs, but they had lost the game and I guess many just wanted to go home or be by themselves and not a single player came out. So we headed to our final stops – the Hello Kitty store on the Mag Mile and the Lego store.

Earlier in the summer Olivia had leaned over to me and begged ‘Daaaaaadddddd, can we ride the train to Chicago so we can go to the hello kitty store this summer?’ I knew we would so I answered ‘yes.’ It is actually Sanrio, but Olivia knows it as the Hello Kitty store because they sell Hello Kitty merchandise and she loves their gum, we try to stock up on it when we are there, because we do not get to the city often.  We took the ‘El’ to State Street and only had to walk about a block and half.

Olivia found the gum and she and William started pulling their favorite flavors – strawberry and cherry. I looked around the store. Everything is pink – hot pink and adorned with a Hello Kitty figure or another figure from the cartoon. It is about the only thing pink that Olivia will allow! The Lego store is just down the mall from Sanrio and it was our next and last stop. The store is overwhelming with more Lego than I knew existed. William loves to build Lego kits and has a quite a collection. They older he gets, the more sophisticated and expensive, his Lego choices become. He honed in on the ‘Technic’ style Lego kits with motorized options and over a thousand pieces. I am always amazed what can be constructed with Lego.

The game, the commute, and the shopping had gotten the best of us and it was late and time to go. The trains returning to Wheaton run on the hour after 6:40 and I needed to get a good night’s sleep, or at least try. School began for me the next day and I needed to be rested and ready to go. Students arrive next week on Tuesday, the same day William and Olivia begin their school year. It is always a good idea to get into a routine before school starts so it is not big shock to your body waking up early and getting moving early in the morning. It is the first rule in the book Rules for School I got Olivia two weeks ago. The train ride home was packed and it went quickly. Once we were off the train and walking back to the car I thought of all the things that we did during the summer and smiled to myself. It had truly been a great summer – a summer well spent.

This is the sixty-ninth post covering eighty-two days. I have missed a few days here and there. Some of the posts have been good, some not so good, but nonetheless they are there for anyone to read. I re-read a couple of posts last week; I could see much more clearly and noticed the errors in my writing. I thought of ways to write more effectively to edit and proof my writing and realized these posts will be great examples as I teach my students how to write. I have written about some rather ordinary events and a few events that will be remembered for long while.

This ends the summer version of Making the Days Count. The first two lines of the song, Today is Gonna be Great Day by Bowling for Soup are, “There are eighty-two days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end it.” Well, school has come along to end it, but it does not mean we cannot still work to make the days count. Stay tuned! Making the Days Count, one day at a time.

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