A lovely afternoon Thursday. I'm on vacation, but a pair of obligations kept me inside—an hour on Zoom with Eric Zorn, Lisa Donovan and John Williams, recording a "Mincing Rascals" podcast for WGN. Then another hour with scholars from the Newberry Library, talking about how to best lure people to the Newberry when they, you know, finally begin going places again.
"We have to get outside," I told my wife, as soon as we were finished, and we grabbed Kitty and headed to the Trail through Time, a meandering path through the Techny Prairie Park, 100 acres of wildflowers and grasses, circling hawks and old oaks, a golf course and a couple soccer fields, just a few blocks from our house.
I couldn't tell you what we talked about. The usual things I suppose, work and kids and the house, the radiating goodness of our dog. Not too much about politics. As we started our walk, our youngest son called with his latest exciting career development, and we asked questions and listened and strode along. Maybe his call put him in mind, but as we passed the sledding hill, I said, "I'm glad Kenty didn't break his neck." A snowy winter's day, he was maybe three, we were on one of those saucer sleds. He was sitting crosslegged on my lap, and we hit a series of bumps—bah-boom, bah-boom, bah-BOOM!—and we were both tumbling through the air and in my mind he came down, headfirst, and I had a moment of pure fear. But he was fine. Ruffled but unhurt. Solid boy. Still, I felt the faintest chill of a very different life, for both of us, that could have begun at that moment, but thankfully did not. I paused again to squint down that dim passageway in relief.
We walked along the river—the West Fork of the North Branch of the Chicago River, for those keeping track, circling the big bowl of the retention basin. In the soft light of the setting sun, the landscape looked golden.
"It's like the English countryside," I said, remembering a journey to East Sussex at this time of year. Kitty surged ahead or lagged behind, savoring the scent of some previous dog.
As we headed out again, we saw somebody setting up a white trellis, and a pair of young men in suit jackets. "Photos or wedding?" I asked a woman with a camera.
"Wedding," she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused all sorts of accommodations and disappointments, parties to be postponed, or shifted in form and tone, into sidewalk serenades and drive by festivities. The pop up wedding is something I had not heard of before, but it seems a good idea, perhaps an improvement, perhaps something that'll catch on. My wife and I had a big lavish wedding in a Michigan Avenue hotel with a 12-piece swing band, and we reflected warmly on it—we're glad we had it, money well spent, but can also see the appeal of going the trellis-on-a-trail route. I do wonder what the cost of our wedding, properly invested, would look like after 30 years, but I bet it would be welcome in retirement, should we ever be able to retire.
All in all, we decided it had all worked out for the best.
"Beside, you only have the one life," I said, "and it's fruitless to wonder about it working out some other way. It worked out this way." We both decided this was a fine thing indeed.
I paused to take a couple pictures of the wedding taking shape in the distance, and wondered if perhaps I hadn't done my due diligence by not quizzing them a bit more. But they seemed very busy, setting up, and a man whose age and air of coiled distraction made me think he was the father of the bride said something, maybe just, "A wedding," that made me not want to impose further upon them, but let them have their privacy in a public space. We could have stayed as observers, I suppose, but we weren't invited and, anyway, dinner was waiting at home.