In 2007, my family and I took a spring vacation at a beach resort in Cancun, Mexico. It was a timeshare we’d purchased years before the kids were born, and we were going for the first time as a whole family. Our youngest, Fiona, would turn four that summer, and we reasoned she was now old enough to tolerate the intense heat and sunshine.
I had an uneasy feeling when we arrived at O’Hare that Saturday morning. It’s one of the world’s busiest airports, but I’d never seen it more chaotic. By the time we’d checked the luggage and wended through security, we had to sprint the length of two sprawling concourses to make the flight. In our seats at last, we then waited on a departure slot, parked on the tarmac, for 90 minutes.
Based on the madness at O’Hare, I should have predicted what came next, but I was still surprised when we landed in Cancun without luggage. Even more unsettling was the airline didn’t seem to know where the lost bags were. I learned an important travel lesson that day: always pack an extra carry-on filled with a day’s worth of essentials for this very scenario.
It was another long wait in a cramped airport office to report the missing luggage, but I marveled at how well our 3- and 6-year-old were handing the delays. When we finally arrived at the resort, our first stop was not the swimming pool, as we’d promised the girls, but a trip to the resort’s pricey boutique for some clothing and toiletries.
Yet even in the best of times, young children have a fixed amount of patience, and I could see mine were reaching their limits.
Where was her Finding Nemo swimsuit, Fiona demanded. She didn’t want to wear that stupid pink flowery thing. She wanted her swimsuit. Hoping to avoid a full-fledged tantrum, I did what any sensible parent would do, and bribed my preschooler with a sugary treat.
Unfortunately, it was only a temporary fix. The meltdown eventually came at bedtime, when Fiona refused to lie down.
“I don’t want to sleep in that green bed,” she wailed. “I want my blue bed at home! My home!”
My heart ached for my baby girl. The vacation we’d long anticipated was finally here, and all she wanted was to go home.
Spring break is now our annual tradition, a week that signifies the end of the brutal Chicago winter. Our only requirement is the destination must be sunny and warm. This year we spent the school holiday in Southern California.
But even after a week in the sun, we look forward to coming home. Chicago is not a pretty place this time of year. Still recovering from the ravages of winter, the trees and flowers have yet to blossom, and our sodden lawns lie dormant, the color a washed out hue of Dijon mustard.
Nevertheless, I’m a proud Chicagoan. I love my hometown, and it’s where my heart will always be. There really is no place like home.