So another adventure is on the horizon, but first I need to reflect and make some parting observations of our American life.
The topic of weather is usually a good and very British place to start.
It’s true we did have a very long, and cold, winter. October felt almost British with its fresh cool air. The air conditioning was a distant memory and within a week the heating was warming our toes. Friends had told us that Chicago starts to batten down the hatches for winter on Labor Day at the beginning of September. August had been very hot and we thought it was premature. Perhaps it was our fault that the weather changed overnight – we did go camping after all – the rains fell down and the jumpers were pulled out of the cupboard.
Talking of getting in the spirit of things, people do like to celebrate everything here. Corpses were hung from trees, bones were shoved into the ground (not yet frozen) to resemble disturbed graves, huge inflatable skulls adorned street corners. And I’m not really sure what we were supposed to be celebrating. Death? Being alive? All a bit strange if you ask me.
Before Hallowe’en there is autumn, or fall, to celebrate. Hurrah, the hot weather is over and we’re now in fear of frostbite. Does no-one remember how horrible it was last year? So autumnal wreaths are hung on doors, sheaths of corn are tied to mailboxes, dried corncobs are dangled from eaves. No harvest festivals though, so not a celebration of Earth’s fruits.
After Hallowe’en you can decorate your house for thanksgiving, generally turkey-based paraphernalia. This is the biggest festival in the calendar and very much focusing on food.
Of course there are the baubles, lights and tinsel of Christmas and New Year, and then everything is strangely quiet. Having been mildly distracted by the pretty lights I begin to feel relieved that I didn’t have to keep up with the neighbours’ decorating competition. We don’t have all the gubbins and stuff required to turn our home into a gingerbread house. Of course, people have massive basements here so storage is not a problem.
January, February and March were very dark months. I thought spring would be around the corner and I could attempt to decorate the house with flowers. Strangely enough they don’t seem to celebrate that, but St Valentines is a big deal. All the children send little cards and sweets to each other. It’s more about appreciating friendship than a romantic display, and that’s an idea to be lauded. Could do without the sweet giving though. I’m writing this in August and I still haven’t let the girls eat last year’s stash of Hallowe’en candy yet!
Spring didn’t come at the end of March. Or April. At the end of May, my brother and his girlfriend came to visit and we had tickets for a Cub’s game at Wrigley Field. I had three coats on that night and was still so cold we abandoned the game after the seventh inning and retreated to the warmth of a pub. The month was so wet. Grey curtains of water were a frequent sight. Even in June I was still waiting for Spring but finally came to the conclusion that we had missed it. Mam and Dad came to visit and the weather was a little unpredictable. Some nice days, some cold days, some wet days and a few hot days. Generally, summers are too hot and humid to spend any time outside and after dark you get eaten alive by mosquitos the size of small birds. Winters are brutally cold, so you risk getting frostbite before you’ve managed to get the children out of the car, but it’s generally dry. Sledging, or to use to local term, sledding, is fun if you can find a day not too cold, but don’t try and make a snowman, because you need English snow, which is wet and slushy.