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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Chicago Dreams

Heather Curlee Novak

On my early morning walk with my friend Mandy, I lamented my inaction in getting the family to Chicago for Christmas. I enjoyed the Marshall Field windows and Barney’s display when I lived there. The oversized everything. Year after year I imagine the glorious visage of the Mag Mile, a mere one hour drive away. I mentally plan to take my daughters and husband into the belly of the city for frivolity. And we do not go. I am not good at planning actual adventures, and wrangling a family of four to face the same direction for any activity is nightmarish to me. Our home is comfy and we all find good things to do and so we do not head out into the unknown often.

My friend Mandy asked if I wanted to go to Chicago with her instead. She painted a day of Ramen, gorgeous ice cream and of course thrif– antiquing. She is a pastor and professor and able to carve a fun day out of her schedule only on rare occasions. I began to salivate, and then confessed the only weekday I have off is Tuesday. Tuesdays are for visiting Monte, my Mother in Love. She lives in a fancy rehab community in Dyer an hour away, so spending time with her for lunch, Gin Rummy and gossip is a four-hour deal. Mandy suggested we take her with us to Chicago. I began to protest that she wouldn’t want to bother, that it would be too complicated medically and logistically as she is in a wheelchair.

Mandy talked of sliding Monte’s wheelchair into the back of my minivan on homemade rails. We drove into the city and to a ramen place she knows. We slurp hot, steamy, noodles and crunch al dente vegetables in spicy broth. We use so many napkins. We planned to take a gummy since it is legal there and of course we give one to Monte for her aches and pains. In our adventures we only have to unload her once and she enjoys this wild deviation from reality. We head to a perfect ice cream shop as the munchies roll in, and we drool over all the options for mix-ins and flavors and we all order too much of a good thing. We sit around a tiny parlor table and spoon cold, creamy goodness into our mouths. We talk and giggle like middle school girls until we cannot breathe. The staff begins to side eye the three of us, and we laugh even harder. Afterwards, we wander through the cutest shops with open ADA doorways, generous budgets and then, Monte, high as a kite, reminds me she wants to ice skate.

When she speaks of Heaven, Monte will be ice skating or riding her bike. She will be healthy and whole and free. So we head to Maggie Daley Park, to the ice skating ribbon there that weaves in and out and around in a never ending loop. Even though I am clumsy and fat and scared, this time I lace up skates with glee. My dear Mother in Love rises from the wheelchair once her ice skates are on and the years melt away. She looks radiant with hope and as beautiful as ever. Monte, Mandy and l hit the ice with all the grace of Olympic athletes. The cold winter air sparkles with magic and fluffy snowflakes drift down onto our faces. The blades of our skates scrape and carve the ice, pressing us forward. Our cheeks grow rosy with the cold and the tips of our fingers are a little numb. Our hearts soar as we skate easily across the ice. We glide, swirl and twirl together around the skating ribbon path. Monte ends up ahead of us, gliding peacefully with pure joy on her face. She giggles like a young girl and pulls ahead of us, rounding the bend. When we turn the corner she is gone.

Music: "Saturday in the Park" by Chicago

Heather Novak's professional history includes sales and customer service training and troubleshooting for businesses, but she loves motivational speaking best. Heather leads church events for youth, singles and women, has spoken for Chicago Apartment Association and many organizations throughout Indiana. Nowadays Heather is just another stay at home wild mama trying to loose some weight, keep some sanity and enjoy her life. She is being raised by two little girls named Portia and Libby and is indulged by a guy named John who was gracious enough to marry her. Heather blogs about F Words: Feisty Faith, Fumbling Family, Fairly Healthy Food, Failed Fashion and Fabulous Friendships. You can find her at