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Seven Hills

Boston-area exploration, travel notes, crafty things, and other Somervillainy.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Summertime often makes me homesick for Chicago, a condition that's only been heightened by my current project of sifting through old family photos from the '70s, rife with snapshots from summer vacations of yore.

This little tableau illustrates what I thought was THE place to be during the city summers of my childhood: the Buckingham Fountain. I'm not sure where I got this idea, but I often fervently wished my family would trek down to Grant Park, particularly at night, when the water and light show commenced, so we, too, could be part of the action, the place where everything was happening, where one could feel truly alive.

The fountain is indeed a grand old Chicago monument, its design inspired by the Latona Basin at Versailles. It's meant to symbolize Lake Michigan, which it overlooks, and the four states that touch the lake. It was dedicated on my birthday, August 26th, in 1927, which gave me a certain sense of kinship with it. Lord knows where I picked up this bit of trivia - my mom must have told me. (She was very good with dates, almost savant-like in that way.)

I did get to visit the fountain plenty of times during the day, usually when we were taking out-of-town visitors to one of the various museums that dot the perimeter of the park. We must have gone once at night when I was very little, and ever after that experience remained my gold standard of nighttime summer family fun. I think that was the only time though. We drove by the light show every now and then on the way back from weekends in Michigan, but even those glimpses were rare, as my dad liked to beat the Lake Shore Drive traffic by sticking to the west-side highways (forgive my generalizations - I never drove in Chicago, so my knowledge of the major roadways is incredibly vague).

The July 4th fireworks took place along the lake in Grant Park, too, but we were usually in Michigan then, and anyway my parents never would have wanted to deal with those crowds. I went one year in high school with some friends, and it was true, the crush of people down there was horrendous. The idea of fireworks over the lake alongside those awesome Midwest skyscrapers is pretty great though. The girl's outfit in this picture is inspired by a red-white-and-blue fireworks extravaganza.

Even if I did see that after-dark fountain show one time only, once may have been enough. It sure lives on in my memory as a thing of glowing wonder.

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