J set aside Memorial Day to visit his paternal grandmother’s grave, which he’d learned is in Saint Adalbert Catholic Cemetery in Niles. After a sunny early morning and stormy late morning/early afternoon, he picked me up.
Saint Adalbert Catholic Cemetery is enormous, larger than I would have expected. If you hadn’t known the northwest region of Chicago was heavily Polish, you’d have only to try to read the names on the thousands of tombstones. There are non-Polish names—J’s grandparents’ included—but I didn’t see many during our brief drive toward the section he’d been told to look for, or later on the way out.
And you can’t miss the names because so many graves aren’t marked by basic, flat, in-ground stones like those of my parents in Pennsylvania. The cemetery is dominated by a wealth of impressive monuments, statues, and crypts. Later we noticed a monument seller conveniently located across the street. Also across the street there’s an expansive florist shop. J noted that the Polish seemed to have done very well for themselves.
As it turned out, his grandparents are buried in a section of modest flat markers, his grandfather’s adorned only with his WWI service and a cross. We didn’t notice any other family markers nearby. He doesn’t know why they came to be buried here, other than that they were north siders and Catholic.
Given the size of the cemetery and the occasion, I was surprised not to see more people or more flags. On Memorial Day, the cemeteries where my parents and my aunts are buried are filled with flags, placed by a local organization at the grave of each veteran. There are a lot of veterans in the central Alleghenies.
Our next stop was the Chicago Botanic Garden. By this time, the weather had turned perfect, but the grounds were nearly empty. After a jaunt around the Rose Garden and a brief rest on a bench, where every mosquito in the vicinity zoomed in on me and my legs, we walked to Evening Island and the carillon, both of which I’d see only in the distance. Stupidly, I had never realized that you can walk there. Why I thought it was a forbidden place I cannot explain.
A robin flew in front of us to a small tree, carrying something large in its bill. I was trying to point it out to J when suddenly, from a nest in the crook of the tree, three mouths shot up. The robin made an attempt to stuff them, but perhaps either intimidated by their insistence or our presence, it flew back toward the water, where it seemed to have found a good spot for foraging. The moment it left, the mouths withdrew into the depths of the nest—just as J had gotten his camera and lenses sorted out. He hadn’t seen them. And, while he was fiddling with his backpack, a chipmunk crossed in front of us. I teased him that someday he’ll have his camera out taking photos or videos of some mundane thing, while bears, mountain lions, eagles, and other creatures line up behind him, out of range of his lens, to watch and laugh. He also missed some large birds (herons?) flying overhead, but at least he saw and photographed the red admiral I pointed out on the leaves of a tree.
He thought there would be a carillon concert, but they start in June. Our timing was perfect, though—the 7 o’clock hour chimed just as we were approaching.
In the berm between parking lots, J noticed a bird that I couldn’t identify at first. It was head on, and the colors weren’t true in the shade. As he was snapping away (and mentally debating getting out the big lens and tripod), an adult robin hopped over and shoved something in the other bird’s maw. Our mystery bird was a fledgling robin. Through the large lens, I could see its pinfeathers. It was at that awkward stage between infancy and adulthood, neither helpless nor mature—the avian equivalent of a gawky teenager. The parent soon wandered off, but Junior continued to stand around expectantly.
Walker Bros. Original Pancake House was closed for the holiday, but I (for one) got my fill of comfort lasagna at Rosebud of Highland Park, which made me sleepy for the long ride home. I felt strange after the long holiday and variable weather.
And so back to the inanity.
31 May 2010