Coming Home

I zigged, I zagged, through O’Hare, then LAX, the handle on my giant suitcase refusing to telescope out as it should, so there I am dragging the swerving suitcase along by some little strap, running pass patterns through major terminals. Simple outs. Button hooks. Looked a lot like Jerry Rice, I told myself. Not a single witness agreed.

TSA made me pass through three times, just because.

Listen, a little letdown is sure to follow a big summer trip like this. But it’s easy to come home when there’s a big slobbery dog waiting to French kiss you.

It’s easy to come home when football beckons – the stickiest season, cider and taffy apples. Candy corn. Slobber. Those little Milky Ways I crave.

The recent rains have greened the lawns and plumped the soccer fields. By all accounts, it’s going to be an especially great fall.

Soon, I’ll be making a big batch of my famous pumpkin moonshine, which doubles as a wart cream and a tar remover for your car. Careful though, it’ll eat right through the metal.

Living life on the edge, as always.

For the record, two things can happen when you live life on the edge. You can fall off the edge. Or you can cut yourself.

Thirdly, you can find yourself zig-zagging through a major airport with 40 pounds of stinky summer clothes and a few mementoes from a wedding, including the personalized cards Rapunzel and Truck left for each guest. A nice touch. I certainly would never go to that kind of trouble. After all, we were feeding and watering them.

Isn’t that enough anymore?

Obviously, no one really likes destination weddings. And if wedding guests are willing to board a plane, put on a suit, fluff their fancy hair, the least you can do is acknowledge how happy you are that they actually showed up.

My buddy Mark J. Miller came, and I’m not even sure he was invited. Same for half these dudes. Name tags probably would’ve helped. At my older daughter’s wedding, someone made a cheat sheet – like a mugshot book — so I could match all the names with the faces.

Not this time. At one point, making the rounds, trying to be somewhat social, I introduced myself to an imperious young prince with a beer in one hand, and a beer in the other.

“Thanks for coming,” I said.

“Thanks, Dad,” said Smartacus.

For the record, Smartacus has approximately 400 cousins in Chicago. If you spot a redhead on the north side, it’s probably my niece. They look like they just fell off a toboggan, ruddy cheeked … toothy. They look like one of the fall flavors at Starbucks.

Anyway, I’m back, and I’ll be making chicken chili soon, to honor this surprisingly mild September. Suzanne bought me a front door decoration for Halloween. Like me, she’s a sucker for a healthy harvest. Just wait till I fill her with cheddar brats and pumpkin moonshine.

Yowzah. If you happen to see a snowy-haired woman dancing in the headlights — probably at a tailgate, or some Druid birthday bash — well, it’s likely her. She’s a fine dancer. You can flip her over your shoulder. You can roll her like dice.

Lands on her feet every time. Which is good if you’re dating me.

We made it through a very long trip, sharing bathrooms in tiny Midwestern motels, jumping on ferries to cross thrashing straits. It was more a hazing than a vacation. Honestly, can’t recommend it enough.

Young love. Don’t you just love it?

And then there’s Cakes, who’s been vacationing on the East Coast since the wedding two weeks ago. This welcome bit of news just in: She appears to have her mother’s hair. Hallelujah.

You know, I’m finding, a little at a time, that grandkids are like a bribe, a payoff, a commission that you get for finishing sixty or so laps around the sun, just for hanging in there too long.

What’s it all about, Alfie?

Well, it’s about grandkids, the ultimate harvest.

So please fill your plate. Turn on a game.


Bound to be a busy fall. Smartacus is heading back to the University of Trees soon, having slung burgers for Bittner all summer. There’s a book out, I may have mentioned, maybe not. It’s the inspiring story of a snarky big-city columnist who runs across a deeply sardonic mountain man known as “The Bear Whisperer.” Mayhem ensues, as does snark, as do tiny dust mites of literary magic. We zig. We zag. The book is out Oct. 3. To pre-order, please click here. Or support a local bookstore. We’ll be singing and signing at Vroman’s Oct. 3 and Barnes & Nobel at the Grove on Oct. 4. Both events are free and start at 7 p.m. I’ll bring some pumpkin moonshine.

11 thoughts on “Coming Home

  1. Chris, what a way to wrap up your trip. I enjoyed reading about the lovely wedding, seeing the photos and may I add, you clean up quite nicely! Thank you for sharing. So right about Fall, it’s my favorite time of year, but I will see your small size Milky Way and raise you a couple of bite size Snickers.

    1. exactly what I was thinking, Stella! Who’d pick a Milky Way if a Snickers was available?? (grammar chosen to indicate a Snickers likely WAS available)

    2. Loved all the wedding info. Will be going to visit best friends in November, from high school, who now live in Traverse City ,Michigan. Really loved when we went to The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. It actually is a grand hotel. Keep up the writing,I look forward to to your posts ❤️

  2. Chris, grandchildren are the dessert of life. My five grandsons (unfortunately, no granddaughters) have given me untold joy over the years.

  3. Thanks for the Smartacus update! I was about to ask. The U of Trees will welcome him with waving branches. I worry about the coming-of-agers in this whacky world! Especially the males. Mine never made it– landed in the moat, where he’s been fishing with a safety pin on the end of a string for 30 years.

    O, and good on the wedding too. All best to the lovely Rapunzel and her Truck!

    But no. Cakes’ hair is NOT like her mother’s, even if you put vaseline on it to temporarily diminish its glorious excesses! She and Suzanne are going to have to duke it out for Best Hair. May the most luminous *do* take the prize in the coif & color categories! I’m voting for both. It’s the only logical choice.

    Keep us posted on tail-gating in Eugene, please!

  4. Happy Forever to Rapunzel & Truck. Loved their notes for the guest.

    I’m so glad you took Suzanne to Door County, one of my favorite places on Earth, and added a side trip to Mackinac Island. Did you buy lots of Mackinac fudge for everyone? Door County is at its finest in late September and early October when the leaves turn into gems and cover the peninsula with glory. Or you can go see the cherry-laden trees in July and explore the little towns tucked between the orchards. Like you, where every redhead is a relative, everyone in Door County is one of my cousins. After I got home from m first date (arranged by a cousin), my Grandma asked if I knew that the boy was my 3rd cousin. Sigh.

  5. Returning from a vacation is usually a grounder to the shortstop , but the lovely segue into September this year is a slide into third, is it not? The kid bails to Oregon (home plate) for another shot, and the house quiets down like the crowd after a double play. You yo-yo up and down the base path to there a couple of times with the girl in tow. Hot dogs and mustard, anyone? Everybody scores.

    What’s not to like about Fall this year? The dog steps up to the plate again for the morning walk to first base, you get out of the house with the buds and coach a little. and write a column or a dozen in the press box, keys clacking away at all hours. The world series is ahead. Batter up; game on. Write the life.

  6. Yes, we love young love AND more seasoned love. I am sure you and Suzanne have patience and humor and appreciation for each other ‘s little (or occasionally big) foibles you would not have had were you in your callow youth. I am betting Posh is giving a thumbs up on that. Cheers to your wonderful trip and amazing memories. PS Please schedule a book signing in Orange County! Anywhere north or south. I will be there. I will buy extra copies for all my friends. Heck, I will drag them with me! Here’s hoping. Happy Fall.

  7. You should marry off your kids more often. It raises your writing to an even more dazzling level than usual. And the pictures are gorgeous, too. Thanks for giving all of us the chance to experience that glorious wedding and the rest of your Midwestern campaign without having to book flights, cars, and hotels, or deal with humidity, mosquitoes, or LAX. Congratulations and welcome home.

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