I haven't missed a Jazz Fest in the 18 years I have called Chicago home. And for the last 7, I've attended as a Mom with a kid or two in tow. This is the first year we were able to ditch the stroller, which was freeing, but made for some rethinking. It was a handy place to stuff stuff.
Thursday night I took the kids to Pritzker Pavilion for an amazing saxophone performance by Sonny Rollins. We swam with friends after school, grabbed a quick bite to eat in Bucktown, and took the train from there. So, we traveled without our usual baggage of camera, play tent, ribbon dancers, poi balls, Frisbees, footballs, bubbles, folding chairs, outer ware, snacks, drinks, folding porta potty seat, wipes etc.......
I was giddy with the freedom from packmuledom for one evening out--until the snarking began. I managed to carry just a Neat Sheet in my small AstroTurf backpack, my keys, wallet and el passes. Despite dinner and temps in the 70's, the kids were instantly starving, thirsty, hot, cold, bored and snarky.
Ah, yes. Now I remember why we Moms schlep so much stuff as part of the job description. It was a good lesson in simplifying, though, for everyone. Earlier this year, I was out at Reggie's Rock Club with my husband, and a drunk guy came stumbling up to us and said, "I just had to say hi to you guys. I see you at every show. And.....I mean. I'm a boyscout, too, and like to be prepared, and I don't have kids, but...... Man you guys always bring a lotta s**t." Not how I want to be remembered in this life!
We bought a bottle of overpriced Dasani water at Millineum Park Cafe and three ice cream cones which went far in the quelling the hungries, hots, and thirsties. But, I made them promise to leave their grumpies at the door in exchange for the ice cream bribe. Then we threw ourselves on the mercy of the great universe and I told the kids they'd just have to be content to listen to some world class jazz and play with whatever we found there.
Once in the pavilion, we had the great luck to plunk down behind a small troupe of jugglers. They had looked like normal 20 somethings, having beers together, when we sat down. But once they broke out numerous balls and started juggling and contact juggling, the kids were entranced. Oh, the joys of Chicago outdoor festivals.
I love that the kids are now old enough to go make friends within my sight lines. They happily and confidently trotted off to join Alex, with the dread locks and fascinating circus tricks, and his juggling friends. I enjoyed the kid-free solitude for a solid couple of hours, while the kids camped out and learned about physics and gravity a few blanket in front of me. The "big kids" as my offspring dubbed them, even broke out a deck of cards and taught my two how to play Go Fish, which Du-Jay and Sagezilla were thrilled to win.
We went back for more Jazz Fest both Saturday and Sunday evenings in Grant Park. This time we brought our own toys and chairs, but still kept it simple and took the train. The kids both fell asleep by 9:30pm, long before the final notes were played. Any other time they don't have to be up for school, they'll be happily dancing at midnight. We weighed the option of carrying two kids--65lbs and 41lbs, many blocks to and from the el on each end and made the executive decision to leave early and cab it home.
Sunday, we anticipated a similar end and drove, parking under Millennium Park, so we could stay through the end of the night. We brought enough glow sticks to share, and the kids made a wonderful eco-village out of stones, grass, mud, and sand.
It took hours and many children to make it, and expanded into quite a site art installation, made purely for the joy of it, all from found objects. All in all, it was a great year for The Chicago Jazz Fest.