Tag Archives: Chicago

from CAFE MONDEGAR – A Novel

Tess and her daughter got out from the Aston Martin on Michigan Avenue outside the eleven-hundred-and-twenty-seven-foot Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, John Hancock Center, and after the valet had taken the car, they began walking along the Magnificent Mile as this beautiful stretch spanning the distance between the Chicago River and Lincoln Park is called.  With its upscale boutiques and department stores and the Water Tower designed by William Boyington, which was completed one hundred years before Big John, as the Hancock tower is locally and affectionately known.

The mother and daughter loved to take in this mid-western metropolis’s beautiful lakefront and eat lunch overlooking Lake Michigan from The Drake hotel; and then wander among the shops of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street.  Now that Tess had moved back to Chicago she realised just how much she had missed returning to this awesome stretch of oppidan splendour, and how she especially enjoyed having Monica with her.

Tess had been lonely when Monica had decided to seek dramatic prospects in Old Albion, but, as her father had mentioned, neither of the Baums would have tried to dissuade their only child from following her heart, even had they thought it was misdirected.

Moving back to Chicago from Virginia, Max had accepted positions on the boards of directors of some ten or twelve different companies and Tess had once again enjoyed the domesticity of preening and ordering the Kenilworth residence.  The home they had bought twenty-five years before and to which they had returned frequently during Max’s time in the Senate.

Tess was a daughter of Chicago’s north shore.  She had grown up in great affluence in Northbrook, the daughter of one of the city’s most redoubtable lawyers, and the relationship Monica shared with her parents was almost borrowed from the one Tess had enjoyed with hers, till their deaths, three years apart.

She had met Maxfield while they were at the University taking a Philosophy class together.  Her Kantian maturity and grace and carriage, all elements of that aristocracy, which America in its obsession with its færy-tale and delusional equality—except for that one allowance made for the Kennedy’s’ Camelot—has tried to deny the existence of.  But there was no mistaking the breeding and the refinement of Teresa Reiss, who unmistakably belonged to those rarefied beings of America’s intellectually and financially driven upper classes.  Her whole life she had been one of those people whose loveliness, like the duped British Princess’s, reached some way beyond grace’s dominion itself.  It was something even the coarsest of men, would be hard pressed not to respect or to harm.

She had fallen in love with Max, in whose brand of cleverness, in whose ambition, and his absolute conviction that he would, that he must, make a mark, bequeath a legacy, make more than a slight difference in the world, she had discerned echoes of her father.  The father whom most daughters will end up wanting to marry.  They were one of those couples, the sublimity of whose beings and depth of whose love would see them through to greatness, both personal and public and many of those moments when each would irrevocably feel that all was right with their world.

The day was beautiful.  One of those uninterruptedly bright Chicago spring days, when the air was sharp and the sun hung high in an errorless sky and the lake gleamed like a sheet of glass.  Only here at The Drake would Monica sit by the window and there, eating salads and drinking the sparkling Perugina, these two wonderful feminine creatures chatted on about things that we shall out of the fondest deference try not to overhear till we must.

—Where did Dad go?

—Do you remember his friend from Oxford, Ian Locketter?

—The mathematician?

—Yes.  Well, he’s in town for a few days and your father wanted to go and spend some time with him.  They were great friends and he only saw him briefly the other evening at the party.  They haven’t seen each other for at least ten years.

—Why didn’t you go?

—I just didn’t feel like it.  I hardly know the man.  I’ve only met him once and as charming as he was, this is your last day here.  With all that’s been going on with the anniversary we hadn’t even come down here yet.  So I decided in favour of The Drake and you.

—Is it lonely without me here?

—Yes.  And no.

—Tess!

—Oh!  Be quiet!  Of course I miss you.

—I should hope so.

—Your father is wonderful company, though.  Has always been.  You know so many of our friends here and in D.C. are divorced or are getting divorced—  The marital cycle is beginning again.  Anew.

—It’s amazing how you and Dad have been together so long.  I don’t think you were even with anyone before him, were you?

—Yes, there were men before him, better looking men, more romantic men, even more intelligent men, believe it or not, but I honestly couldn’t conceive of my life with anyone else.  I’ve loved him most of my life.  From the very moment I first saw him I knew completely that he was it and that’s never changed.  And not a day goes by that I don’t consider how lucky I am that he felt the same way when he first saw me.

—So was it just lucky then?  I mean to know you loved each other.  With such certainty.

—Yes I think it was.  And you will too.  When it happens.  And your father is a hard man to love, but I’ve never wanted a man who was easy to love.

—I wonder.  It seems weird.  To be that certain.  To have no questions.

—Oh, of course we had questions.  Tons of them.  But we were also able to answer them.  Even when we didn’t like the answers, at least we were sure that they were there.  I think that’s when you know you’re certain.  When you can answer them without reservations and still look at a man and love him deeply.  Accept him for what he is and what he isn’t and most importantly for what he’ll never be.  Even accept that he is not all the things you thought you wanted in a man.  I even say that about your father.

—So questions are good?

—You cannot love without questions, Monica.  You cannot love without tests.  Love deepens on the other side of every test you come through together.  And the bigger the test, the deeper the love.

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