Well, this is it. The very last stop along The Gap Year. I can’t think of a more appropriate way to end a year of learning, going, and growing than with my family at a baseball field.
Chicago, much like Maui, has always been a place people have told me about but that I had no real interest in visiting. I knew nothing about it or what we would do there, but my brother had the choice of baseball stadiums around the country, and he chose Wrigley. So off we went to the Midwest, all to watch a baseball game.
This is so completely typical of my family. If you only knew the amount of traveling we have done in the past sixteen years for baseball, you would not only be a little appalled at the amount of mileage but probably also somewhat impressed.
But I digress.
So, just like Maui, Chicago completely surprised me. It’s beautiful and big and incredibly engineered. From the Chicago River running right through the middle of the city to the strange mix of architectural styles found in buildings situated right next to each other, Chicago is unique. And don’t get me started on the food. Regardless of the extraordinary guilt that I felt as I ate it, the deep dish pizza was so good that it made me reconsider all of my opinions on everything before that moment, both pizza and non-pizza related.
And then there was Wrigley.
Being from Atlanta, I am very well accustomed to the heartbreak and consequent fair weather fans that come with loving the Braves. So, even before we got to Wrigleyville, I could tell that Chicago was very different. We had tickets to a weekday afternoon game, but the way the train was packed on the way there you would have thought it was the World Series (which the Cubs did end up winning, so in hindsight maybe they were on to something). When we stepped off the train and in front of Wrigley, it felt as if every human being on the planet was with us. The noise, the excitement, the energy were more intense than any Braves game I’ve ever attended. Guys… Cubs fans are LOYAL.
They had chants, cheers, and songs for every conceivable occasion. The stadium itself was old and dated in the best way. I felt like I was experiencing a little piece of history, and I loved it.
The best part, though, was that my brother was with us.
I understand now that before I moved away to college in 2011, I had taken my family for granted. I also understand now that I was spoiled when I moved back home in 2015 and had an entire year with my family all back under one roof. Then, as has become customary in our lives, my brother had to leave home early for baseball. He left for college at the beginning of July, and that’s when I realized that he was really gone. Other than for the holidays, he wouldn’t be coming home anymore. Being together and watching baseball (and eating lots of snacks, honestly), felt like us, like our family.
Takeaway: It had been a strange month of adjustment after my brother left for school, with the house quieter (and admittedly cleaner) and with a little less laughter. That week in Chicago felt like we were whole again, and that’s the only way I would have wanted to end The Gap Year.