If you're wondering what the numbers mean, it's how many people have been in our home over the last few weeks at any one time. Since May, we've had all sorts of combinations under one roof - parents, sister, in-laws, both sons, one son, and we've still got visitors booked right through until October that we cannot wait to welcome.
Currently our numbers are once again depleted and I think it's fair to say we're all feeling a bit flat. Last night we bid farewell to my wonderful in-laws after their two week visit. Son#2 is at camp, so we're down to just 3 of us. The house is quiet and feels big again - especially since I've spent all morning catching up on the domestic chores that have been neglected for the last fortnight of sightseeing and entertaining.
It's been a busy few weeks. We've clocked up numerous city visits, boat trips, tram rides and bus tours. We've wandered around shops, museums, zoos and art galleries. We've seen parades, fireworks, shows and music festivals and we've eaten in a dozen different restaurants. We've sampled as much of glorious Chicago as she could offer us and still only scratched the surface.
With every day of the last two weeks having an itinerary, it was strange to wake up this morning to a free day stretching out ahead of me. It's like coming home from a holiday - I have the souvenirs, the suntan and the mosquito bites - but thankfully no mountain of laundry! It's back to the normal routine, except I haven't yet fully nailed that one down yet. It's still not 'normal' for me to be not working, it's still not 'normal' for me to be living here in Chicago, and nothing highlights this more than when we have visitors from England.
We've so looked forward to our family and friends visiting, but I confess, I've been feeling more homesick recently. By bringing the oh-so-familiar into our new lives here, we're reminded of how different things are. To give an example: seeing my Mother-in-law pottering around my kitchen reminds me of the days back in England when she'd arrive with a tin of home-baked treats. The smell of my Mum's perfume, my Dad's bad jokes (sorry Dad!) against this American backdrop all serve as reminders of what we've left behind. And of course, saying goodbye is never going to get any easier. Right now, I'm wondering how we'll cope without seeing our closest family until Christmas.
On the plus side, I've seen more and done more these past few weeks than I have in the last few years and I've fallen in love with Chicago. The beauty of her skyline takes my breath away. She has a majesty and audacity that never stops impressing me. Her buildings stand shoulder-to-shoulder, jostling for position and boasting of their ability to defy the laws of physics. I have the time to be inspired by the beautiful shoreline and beaches, time to wander in and wonder at the beauty of landscaped botanical gardens, to reflect on monuments, architecture and artwork. For now, this is my normal and I'm profoundly grateful.
I've just finished reading a book* in which the author decided that once a week, he would make Tom Sawyer's Island in Disneyland his office. As a top lawyer, he could have had his office in a fancy corporate building, but instead, he mischievously chose a pirate lair - a place of imagination and adventure - to meet with his clients and students. Each week on that island, he feels inspired and believes that anything is possible. It got me thinking that one person's normal is another person's Disneyland. My 'normal' can be inspiring and imaginative - a place where all things are possible, and that place can be right here...