As we crossed into Illinois, it felt comforting yet strange to be in familiar territory again. For the last four months, our travels have taken us to many new and exciting places. Driving along the Illinois country roads, however, surrounded by fields of corn, was sort of a homecoming for us both. Having spent portions of our lives in the Land of Lincoln, we drove along quite content with the views of the flat farm lands that surrounded us; very different than much of the scenery we had out west. I can’t say that the time I spent in Illinois was my happiest. I have happy memories but I was also pretty content to leave the state nine years ago. So, it was strange for me to have this sense of being home and happiness as we drove along.
Our first destination in Illinois was Sycamore, Chris’ childhood home. We ate at the family favorites, drove by his old school and houses, and found a nice RV park within walking distance to Sycamore’s beautiful historic downtown. We only stayed one night though, for Chris’ grandmother in Chicago was awaiting our arrival. Not wanting to try and tow an Airstream into the city, we left our shiny home parked at the RV park in Sycamore, packed up some of our clothes, and along with the dogs set off for Chicago.
Grandma already had the meal prepared, the exact same meal she prepares every time we visit because she knows it is Chris’ favorite: homemade noodles and chicken soup; “chicken supreme”; mashed potatoes; green beans; carrots; and dinner rolls. So, the first thing we did upon our arrival was eat especially since Grandma kept proclaiming we were both too thin. Our massive amounts of eating continued through the duration of our visit. For breakfast, Grandma made some small, thin pancakes…a lot of them. She kept serving them to us and we kept eating as much as we could. Chris realized that if he put his head over his plate like he was eating, he blocked her from putting more pancakes on his plate. So where did they end up? My plate. Seriously, I think I had 30 pancakes for breakfast one morning…in addition to scrambled eggs.
We also had the difficult task of trying to explain to Grandma what this whole Airstream thing was about. She kept stating in a concerned tone, “You can’t do this forever! You have to settle down!” We showed her pictures of the Airstream, as I don’t think she was still quite grasping the concept of our home. She continuesly expressed her worries, specifically about the number of miles we were driving, how we were eating (or not eating as she assumed), our lack of a permanent home, the fact that we had to go to laundromats, and the general safety of what we were doing. She worried about how Chris got paid and we tried to explain the internet and online banking. It baffled her. Overall, I think she thinks we are crazy.
This was also her first meeting of our dogs and thankfully, everyone seemed to get along. The dogs were on their best behavior (with the exception of AJ climbing onto the table to steal some bread). The dogs also enjoyed Grandma’s nice fenced-in backyard and the abundance of attention they were getting.
We stayed for three days and for two of the days, Chris had to work. So, Grandma and I had some quality time. We talked, I tried to ease her worries about our nomadic lifestyle and explain how exactly Chris works without actually going to an actual office, we looked at pictures, we went for a walk to several grocery stores and the bank, and once we ran out of things to talk about or places to go, we ate. She made cheesecake. I ate it. She made sandwiches. I ate them. She gave me cookies. I ate them. Kit-Kat bars? Yep, ate those too. She couldn’t, however, understand why I’d want to drink water. “Who drinks water?” she asked. So I drank rootbeer, orange juice and coffee with my many meals each day.
We were fortunate to have beautiful weather while in Chicago. It was relatively warm and the sun was shining. It was great to visit with Grandma, hear her stories, share our stories, and eat delicious home-cooked meals. Our visit was short, but we needed to return to our shiny home in Sycamore. I didn’t like leaving it unoccupied for too long. So, we said our goodbyes to Grandma and waddled back to the truck, with our arms full of food, of course.