Ernest who?

Corey Stoll as Hemmway in Midnight in Paris on the left; the real Hemmingway on the right

AGMA made a hard decision last month.

My niece’s 20 year old au pair, H, wanted to visit Chicago.  My niece & fam live just outside of DC.  H is a delightful young woman from Germany and the whole family adores her.

But she has the misfortune of being the in the US during 2020.

‘Nuff said.

So instead of visiting the incredible Smithsonian Museums, imposing Federal Buildings, or just exploring one of the most beautiful cities in the US, she’s been quarantining at my nieces home.

She’s not been able to travel to see other parts of the US like most au pairs were able to do “before”.  Pre-COVID, she managed a visit to New York City (when she first arrived), Boston (her 1st host family) & Seattle (solo trip).

Another important part of the au pair experience is connecting with other au pairs.  Remember, these young ladies (not sure if guys do this…) have no friends in the US when they come over, so the local au pair community gives them a much needed social outlet and support.

Coronavirus put an end to that as well.

So when H mentioned she would love to see Chicago when we were visiting my niece & fam during the Great Train Adventure last month, I said, “Please come and visit us!”

We told her about our teeny extra bedroom and bathroom in our tiny apartment. But warned her that we lived in a basement Hobbit hole.

AGMA seriously didn’t expect her to take us up on our offer.

I mean, we’re in the latter half of our 60’s and old enough to be her Oma & Opa.  And she had known us for less than 48 hours when we had this conversation, so we were basically strangers. But I guess she didn’t think we were too weird.

It’s good to get that affirmation from time to time.

I’ve discovered in meeting my niece’s other au pairs over the years, that a young woman who has the moxie to take 12 months out of their young lives, away from their family & friends, to travel alone to the US to work for a family they’ve never met in person are pretty comfortable and good conversationalists with people of all ages.

Plus, she’s heading back home in February.

Yup – she wanted to come visit and soon.

But our son and DIL here in Chicago are very uncomfortable with the idea of anybody flying during the pandemic being around their kids.  And anybody spending any extended time in a Hobbit hole with anybody who has flown on a plane.

This is a scary virus and AGMA totally respects their concerns.

So, if we hosted H, we would have to quarantine from our grandchildren for 14 days to make sure we hadn’t gotten the virus from her.

Now that was a tough one,

We opted to be H’s tour guide to the Windy City.

Our 5 year old grandson, who is terrified of the virus, was cool with us staying away until we were deemed “safe”.  Our 3 year old granddaughter was just concerned we’d have toys for her on her birthday at the end of October.  I assured her we would.  And the 16 month old had no idea what was going on.

So we were good to go!

H arrived on a Friday evening and left Sunday evening.  And in-between it was a wild and wooly 48 hours!

Socially distanced, masked highlights included:

  • The Art Institute of Chicago (and their special Monet exhibit)
  • An architectural boat tour on the Chicago River
  • Strolling up the Magic Mile on Michgan Ave
  • Seeing the “bean” in Millennium Park (it was roped off due to the damn virus)
  • Drive by Wrigley Field and the University of Chicago
  • The Picasso on Daley Plaza
  • Greek food in Greek town
  • Chicago Pizza at Giordono’s (AGMA’s fave!)
  • A Chicago hot dog at Jr. Red Hots
  • Cinnamon buns at Ann Sathers
  • Gelato on Rush St.

Inspired by the Monet exhibit at the AIOC and the fact that H liked the movie Yesterday, AGMA suggested that we watch one of my favorite movies of all time, Midnight in Paris, on Saturday night.  It combines a loose theme of French impressionism with a fantasy story (like in Yesterday), so I thought she’d love it.

It tanked like tRump at a TikTok convention .

Without giving away the plot, Midnight in Paris features famous artistic types in the 1920’s in Paris. Ernest Hemingway, Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, T.S Elliot, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Josephine Baker, etc…

It didn’t dawn on AGMA that a 20 year old raised in Germany would have no idea who most of those people were.  But it kinda makes sense.  Many are American’s and, while famous in the US, I’m guessing that kids in German high schools never read The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises or heard “Anything Goes” or “Too Darned Hot”.

But still, it felt a little strange to have to explain who they were to her.

AGMA recognized that look in her eyes. Boring…

She went to bed about halfway through the movie.

She didn’t get to see Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Luis Bunuel, Man Ray & Djuna Barnes, Paul Gaugin, Edgar Degas or Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

To be totally honest, I had to read about Bunuel, Ray, and Barnes after I first watched Midnight in Paris.  

Everyday’s a school day.

I just need to remember that those GenZ-ers haven’t had the benefit of a lifetime of education and experience like AGMA.

(That’s another way of saying I’m old!)

Overall, H had a wonderful visit to Chicago and gushed about how wonderful it was, how much fun she had, and the yummy food (don’t judge her!)  And Hubs and I both had a great time hosting her. 

And the really good news is that it looks like H didn’t get COVID from her plane ride.  Yippee!  And we, consequently, have not come down with the virus.  Double yippee!

And we were allowed to resume visiting the grands after only 11 days.

It’s De-Lovely!

Moveable feast, here I come

midnight-in-paris

I really wanted to write about making Thanksgiving dinner this past Saturday.  This was unusual because the “official” Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. is not until November 26th.  It was made even more unusual because I prepared the entire meal by myself.   Alone.  Yikes!

Unusual and, of course, amusing as only AGMA cooking adventures can be.

But I’m having a hard time.  I can’t seem to muster up any funny words. My heart continues to be heavy for the people of Paris.

Adventures with the undercooked turkey will have to wait.

Many, many words have been written since evil took flight against innocents in Paris last week.  People far more intelligent and gifted have eloquently written about the events of this real life, nightmarish Friday the 13th.  I can add no new insights or analysis.

My response is totally from the heart and gut.

I love Paris.  I really can’t explain why.  Or maybe I can try.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the City of Lights five times in my life.  Five times, I’ve been thoroughly enchanted.

One of my favorite movies is Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.  It totally captures the magical nature of this amazing city.  I really want to hang out with Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Cole Porter…  I want to be part of the great Moveable Feast that was/is Paris.

The last time I went to Paris, I sat on the steps that Owen Wilson sat on when he got picked up by the limo at midnight.  I waited for about an hour.  Nothing.  Crap.

But that’s what Paris does to you.  It makes you believe that anything is possible and totally captivates your heart.

Granted, some Parisians can be brusk to non-French speakers.  But I just flutter my eyelashes and say in my very broken French, “Parlez-vous anglais?”  And when they say “No”, I turn on the big Bambi doe eyes and say “Un petit peu?” at which point they shrug and say “A lee-ttle”.  They then proceed to speak in flawless English.  And become very friendly.

Gotta love Paris.

The people, the food, the history, the wine, the gardens, the beauty… a lifestyle of joy and the celebration of living.

The French have been allies of the U.S. since the beginning of the U.S.  They are our oldest friends as a nation and fought along side us in our bid for independence.  And many of our finest young men are laid to rest in French cemetaries in Normandy.  There is a deep, deep connection between us.  A blood bond if you will.

I mean, they gave us the freaking Statue of Liberty for Pete’s sake…  That’s like the best BFF gift ever.

So I mourn for Paris, and our French brothers and sisters as only family can mourn.  And based on our experience here in the U.S. with 9/11, I know that they will never quite be the same.

But they will endure.  And not only endure, but I have a feeling they will not let this evil fundamentally change their love and zest for life.  It may even deepen and get more intense.

Gotta love the French.

And I do.  So in less than three weeks, I’ll once again be in my mostest favoritest city in the world.

Paris – AGMA’s coming and she can’t wait!

Some of my friends and family think I’m out of my mind.  Perhaps, but I wouldn’t dream of changing my plans out of fear or concern for personal safety.  If I do that, the bad guys win.  In my own small way, I can’t, I won’t, let them win.  I think being a tourist in Paris right now is an act of defiance in the face of those who seek to destroy and who know nothing of joy and love and light.

Reality check…  Okay – so with terrorists still floating back and forth across boarders, I won’t deny that there is risk.  The experts say there will be more attacks.  But I think we risk even more if we cower in fear.

AGMA’s getting crusty in her old age.

So I’m getting ready to eat and drink in cafe’s, go to museums, do some running in the Tuileries, and visit the beautiful Christmas Markets.  And show my French “family” that this diminutive American AGMA has their back.

Viva la France!