Sweet Home Chicago

This past Sunday, I visited Holy Family Church to celebrate the feast of St. Joseph with my family and neighbors.  It’s a beautiful diverse and contemporary church in Inverness, Illinois. It is multicultural and inclusive to all which makes my heart happy.  They always seem to serve food after mass which make is worth the drive! The purpose of the day was to spend time with my wonderful friend and neighbor, Maria.  The most beautiful soul that lived next door to us for over fifteen years. We saw each other through the best and worst of what life threw our way and enjoyed the ordinary.

To set the tone …. the morning started out hectic because we stayed up a little late with neighbors and cousins celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  I slept in and then rushed to get out of the house to make it to church on time (we were seventeen minutes late). This week my two girls, Goddaughter, new little neighbor, Granny and past neighbor, Miss Maria joined me for my spiritual journey.  It was a girls day! We picked up Granny, Lu and Miss Maria on the way (poor planning since they all live in opposite directions). I was a feeling a little angst because there was a good possibility that I was going to run out of gas, realized too late that the third row seats were filled with donation bags (quick fix was to drop on the McAuliffe porch when picking up Lu), Allison was complaining that her throat hurt (repeated non stop for 30 minutes) but mostly it was because I was very hungry.  All in all, it worked out and we made it in good time. Maddi played good music which was much appreciated since it drowned out Granny giving driving directions and Allison whining.

The mass was beautiful and afterwards we enjoyed the traditional St. Joseph’s Table.  This is the first time that we attended this feast and it was really incredible. Think delicious homemade Italian food, sweets table, talented Italian singers and truly great company.   I can’t believe that in all of my forty three years I missed out on this Catholic tradition … (bet we were laser focused on St. Patrick’s Day which is two days before St. Joseph’s Day). This made me think of all my Italian friends and spending time at their homes growing up … which led me to think about ALL of our roots and how we share traditions.  Many of my friends and our parents are immigrants or second generation coming from Ireland, Italy, Poland, Mexico, Greece, Serbia, India … I can go on. I love learning all about different cultures.

Chicago is a melting pot … and growing up here we are exposed to so many cultures from other countries with or without realizing it. The first question we ask each other is … what neighborhood are you from, then we identify with a parish or a park and then you get right to the point, what nationality are you?  There is always a connection. My husband identifies as American (I swear they have a family Bible that leads back to the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria), my bestest friends are Italian/Mexican, Polish/Filipino, Italian and of course, the true Irish (with families with 10 plus kids). All of these friends have influenced me and my family for the better by giving us a different perspective based on their way of life (and collectively their food is lots better than the Irish).  

Each individual, every neighborhood, every park makes up a piece of our diverse city that makes us whole.   Our families literally built this city brick by brick, beam by beam, nursed and protected all of its residents.  I think of everyone that has left their home countries with little money, made the journey to the unknown and made a good life for themselves.  How much courage it must have taken take to leave the security of your family and venture to a new country.

I’m proud Irish, very proud but not too proud to realize that we are American.   We all share this commonality yet we all have something special, something unique to share. We value family, tradition and are proud of our origins.  That is what make Chicago so incredible.

Sweet home Chicago. I sincerely love and embrace all of our differences.  Let’s celebrate each other and all of our wonderful traditions (and food).  And as my Allison says, “I’m American” when asked her nationality (my Mom tries to convince the the kids that they are 100% Irish, I’ve never even thought of correcting her but looks like Mark got to Alli!).

I met a new friend, Sophie, at Holy Family and she told me about a traditional Filipino Christmas celebration Simbang Gabi in December.  I can’t wait to go back!  

My favorite American tradition is baseball and authentic Italian food is my all time favorite.  #baseballmom #irishmeatballs #differentisgood

Tell me what is your favorite tradition, your own plus another outside your race / culture?

For the record, I have been interrupted three thousand times trying to finish this week’s blog!  Excuse any grammatical errors, etc! ; )


Michelle Arnold