When I lived in Washington DC, my mother took me to the art museums frequently. One of my only claims to fame is that I was the first person in the National Gallery of Art, East Wing museum. Not a big accolade, but I’ll take it.
My mother’s older sister is an artist who can transform just about anything into something beautiful. Currently, she works with glass which I especially admire given my fear of cutting myself, my hatred of pain, and my graceless propensity for breaking things. Artist Aunt walked me through her home and gave me a walk through of her artwork, a step-by-step guide to her methodology, and a tour of her studio. It was like plunging my hands into her inspiration, her process, and her completed works all at the same time.
It is was a beautiful form of Heaven.
Twin Aunt (I call her this because we share so many emotional and psychological traits), on my second day in the Chicago area, took me to the city. The Girl had asked to see Chicago, and I, having never been as an adult, happily complied.
I confess to feeling guilty for having dragged so many people around on my hair-brained adventures. I can plan things out to the nth-degree, but this trip I left open and rather flexible. Too many people were involved and I wanted to focus on the people I was visiting, not the geography.
So on Wednesday morning, Twin Aunt, along with my cousin and her sons, picked up The Girl and me for an excursion into Chicago.
We took the train into the city, which was amazing. The Metra trains were double-decker trains….awesome! The child in me exulted at the newness of this adventure. Even though I said nothing about my preference, my cousin’s sons elected to sit on the upper story, awesome!
And so we rode through an unfamiliar landscape that railed the edges of memories. One station was next to the high rise apartment buildings where my great-grandparents lived. I stared at the building’s scalloped layers and remembered the fragile warmth of my great-grandfather’s arms when he held me in his lap so I could press my ear against his chest and listen to his “ticker.” I remembered the love in my great-grandmother’s voice; she loved everyone without question.
Going to Chicago proper is a trait of my adulthood. I have lived with such paralyzingly anxiety about making mistakes, hurting people, or disappointing loved ones that I never took risks. I hate the sick look of disappointment when it is directed at me, so not taking chances meant not being the recipient of that expression.
But that meant living in a nauseating spiral of routine and boredom. I lived on a daily repetition of going what was safe and expected, and I think my soul decayed just a little. So, throwing off the calcified exoskeleton that inhibited my shadow, I went to New York City. I hiked miles of the Appalachian Trail. I got a tattoo.
I went to Chicago to find my family. I went to Chicago because I had no adult memory of it. And my wonderful Twin Aunt took me to the Art Institute.
One of my favorite movies is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Unbeknownst to me, he went to the Art Institute of Chicago. He saw the Seurat painting of dots and points of color.
And in that Wednesday, I stood in front of the same painting. I stood at the edges and dreamed of patience and taking chances as Seurat dipped his brushes into paint and dotted out memories and life. He took a chance. He did something completely new. He redesigned the concept of normal and acceptable and gave the world a kaleidoscopic perspective.
I stood in front of Van Gogh’s self portrait and mourned his debilitating mental illness.
I photographed Monet’s impressions on d sunrises and sunsets and luxuriated have in the landscape of what is and what it can be and what I perceive it to be.
I stood in front of American Gothic and searched for symmetry and symbolism.
I walked through halls of miniature lifestyles and Medieval armor and weapons.
Beside me, different family members stood beside me and shared their thoughts, perspectives, memories. I stood at this incredibly beautiful juncture where my childhood stood juxtaposed against my adulthood.
I grabbed the hands of my family.