“We’re not going shopping!” I made this clear at the outset when granddaughter and I went for a day trip into downtown Chicago during her visit this summer. “This all about sightseeing, ” I told her.
Remember these words, dear reader. How futile are the best laid plans of a gullible grandparent when set against the machinations of a canny and resourceful nine-year-old.
Things started out well. We took the train to Ogilvie Station and stopped by the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza. She slid down the shoulder of the iconic Chicago artwork a couple of times, as countless children have done before her, and then ran off to chase the pigeons. It’s funny how, at that age, girls want to act like an adult but very often behave like a five-year-old. I, on the other hand, quite frequently act like a spring chicken until my bones and bunions let me down and I feel more than twice my age!
I thought she might enjoy seeing the inside of the State of Illinois Center, or the James R Thompson Center as it’s now known, with all its lines and angles, so we crossed the street to take a look. I saw her eye the shiny glass capsules as they ascended to dizzying heights and by tacit agreement we made our way towards the nearest elevator door.
Disappointed that we were only allowed access to the 2nd floor she soon lost interest and we walked down towards Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park. It promised to be another scorching hot day so we sat for a while by the fountain at the Millennium Monument, listening to a jazz band playing beneath a nearby tent, while granddaughter dabbled her fingers in the water. Was this where the germ of a brilliant plan took shape? Quite possibly.
I was quite happy to remain there enjoying the music but granddaughter was ready to move on so we continued through the park, people-watching and gazing up at the Chicago skyline.
Young girls of a certain age who have achieved ‘princess’ status are, maybe not surprisingly, difficult to impress but sight of Cloud Gate, or The Bean as it’s more commonly called, drew a gratifying “Wow!” from the kid.
If you like this, I thought, wait till you see the Crown Fountains! As we made our way down to the lower level of the park we could hear the excited shrieks of small children and I could tell it had piqued the interested of a now rather warm and weary sightseer. “If you want to take your shoes and socks off, you can go for a paddle,” I told her. She quickly divested herself of the aforementioned footwear and, finding a seat where I could keep a close eye on the proceedings, I watched as granddaughter joined in the fun.
Bearing in mind that the only things I had in my backpack were a couple of bottles of water, a bag of Doritos and some spare camera equipment, it was inevitable that the following happened. Can you see where I’m going with this? The kid edged closer and closer to the smiling face on the fountain and, when the water suddenly gushed out from the pouting lips, she dived in.
My first reaction was to laugh but then the thought occurred to me ……. Wait! What! No! I had planned to go for lunch somewhere! You can’t exactly present the maître d’ with a sopping-wet child and ask for a table for two. I thought about calling her back but by this time she was as saturated as she could possibly be so I let her stay to enjoy a couple more cycles of the fountain. Eventually she returned with a sheepish grin. “Sorry, Grandma! I couldn’t help myself!”
There was nothing for it but to go in search of a clothes store. We headed back to State Street (there was no way I was paying Michigan Avenue prices for a dry outfit) and found a convenient Target shop. Everything from top to bloomers had to be replaced and eventually, after much deliberation and several trips to the changing room, we made our purchase and emerged back onto the street. Lunch at one of my favorite downtown restaurants followed and we were ready to continue exploring.
Back through Millennium Park we went, past the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and over the winding BP pedestrian bridge that crosses Columbus Drive and leads to Maggie Daley Park.
For someone who loves climbing, sliding and having lots of fun as much as our granddaughter, this is a kid’s paradise! We had reached the ultimate goal!
We rounded the day out with ice cream. I had my doubts when the kid asked for a double scoop on a cone, especially in that heat, and my fears were realized when, after only a few licks, the ice cream toppled to the ground. I’m not sure if I heard right but I chose to ignore the word that issued from those young lips. I couldn’t really blame her. Time to go home!
On our return to the station we stopped on the bridge over the Chicago River and waved to the tourists, some of whom waved back. Everyone was happy. I’d got to share one of my favorite places to visit and the ‘princess’ had gone shopping.
As the train pulled out of the station I could see granddaughter gazing intently at the window, not at the rapidly receding skyscrapers but, I suspect, at her own image in that new outfit. All was well.