It didn't happen.
Here's what did happen: I left Hadley early Thursday in Mumsie's arms. She wouldn't kiss me goodbye. She knew. But I put on my happy face and skipped out the door...and cried in the car on the way to the airport. I feel like I don't get enough time with her as it is, and I couldn't bear the thought of giving up precious days with her. I told Jason, "I'm not going." He said, "Yes, you are." That Jason, he can really be a tough cookie when he wants to be. Everyone thinks he's such an easy-going guy, but try ditching him at DIA when he's about to get a big fancy-pants award from his big fancy-pants Fortune 500 company, and he turns into Mr. Serious. So I went.
As the airplane was racing down the runway, I had two thoughts: 1) I'm literally racing away from Hadley at about 200 miles per hour. 2) Please, God, don't let anything happen to this airplane because Hadley's mommy and daddy are both on it.
The ride was, ahem, bumpy, and all I could think was, "Are you kidding me? You can't cut a sad mama a break? I'm already stressed about leaving my baby girl for days on end, and now, I'm bouncing and pitching my way through 1,000 miles of clouds? Fabulous."
But we arrived safely--and early--and by the time I was cruising in the black Lincoln Towncar toward our five-star hotel on the Gold Coast, I was feeling better. It's amazing how a little pampering can heal a broken heart.
Thursday was the hardest. By Friday morning (after 11 hours of sleep), I felt better. We got ready for the awards ceremony, and cruised down to the fifth floor of the hotel to the banquet room.
It was a wonderful afternoon--sincere, intimate, lovely. Jason's company did an excellent job honoring the award winners with a great combination of humor and sincerity, and I almost cried when the time came for the company's president and COO to talk about Jason. I think Jason is really glad I didn't actually weep because, really, I'm not a very discreet crier.
After the luncheon, several people stopped by our table to congratulate Jason and introduce themselves to me. They all said the same thing: "We love Jason." "Jason is amazing." "What they said today, that barely begins to describe your husband. He's incredible." I was struck by how eager they all were not to talk about Jason's ability to manage his business or drive profitability; they just wanted to talk about what a great man he is. I hope I didn't make weird faces as I fought back my tears--again.
The rest of the weekend was fantastic. I had forgotten how much I love walking in the city at night, watching the El cruise by (so long as I don't have to ride it), smelling the odd chocolate scent that wafts through the air just north of the river, and eating my way through the day. We met Graham and his girlfriend for lunch, trekked down to the Museum of Science and Industry, walked down the Mag Mile after dinner one night, watched movies in our glorious hotel room, perched ourselves in the hotel lounge every night for dessert and entertaining people-watching--and it was good. Even though we missed Hadley like crazy (and spent half of our time talking about her), the freedom not to watch the clock was f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c.
By Sunday, we were ready to see Hadley. I was impatient traveling home, eager to be here and hold Hadley. Do you ever have those dreams when you can't move quickly enough to get away from something that's chasing you? I felt that way, like no matter how much energy I spent, I couldn't make us move any faster. I actually got irritated at DIA while we were walking to the car. "Getting out of this airport takes forever. Whoever designed it (actually, I know who designed it) did a terrible job. Morons." I'm pretty sure I saw Jason stifle a smile.
We got home (finally!) around 2:30, and when I picked up Hadley, she hugged me long and hard...and patted my back. I will remember that hug for the rest of my life. It was like a cool drink of water after a day in the desert.
Mumsie and Granddaddy were tremendous, fielding my (very frequent) calls, taking Hadley on adventures, telling her that we'd be home soon and making her feel loved and secure. She bid them a happy farewell on Sunday afternoon--I think she was glad to have her mama and daddy back--but I was waiting for the backlash, the fussiness or clinginess or general unease. Nothing. She's been her usual happy self.
While we walked around the city, I kept thinking about how Hadley has changed our lives. The last time I was in Chicago was three years ago. I had just finished a post-graduate fellowship. We were living in Evanston, eager to head West, uncertain about how our transition to Denver would go. Most of all, I was tired of the city.
But this time, I saw the city with fresh mama eyes. I imagined Hadley's first visit; I longed for her to see the American Girl store. I dreamed about how she'll react when we take her to the Signature Room at the top of the John Hancock building. I wondered what I'll say when she asks about the homeless people who dot Michigan Avenue.
I remembered why I loved Chicago, and I began to love it for Hadley, too. The next time I go roaring out of town in a plane headed for the Windy City, she'll be along for the ride, too.
[We don't have any photos because we left the camera at home. It's funny. We've taken photos of Hadley's first EVERYTHING, but we don't have a single shot of our first trip away from home. Oh, well. Just imagine us looking fat and happy in front of most of Chicago's famous landmarks.]