One of the best things about living in a tiny town (Sterling’s population doubles each year during its 4th of July celebration–to 5,000 people!) is the understanding of the connection you have with those who live near you. You don’t take your car to Walmart to have the brakes checked because your neighbor works as the manager at the local mechanic and you want to contribute to her livelihood. You do most of your grocery shopping in town because you know nearly all the checkout clerks’ names–and they know yours.
We’ve been trying to keep this lesson in mind as we’ve moved back to West Chicago, with its 27.000 people and central downtown area. We’re getting to know some of the waitresses, by face at least,at El Coco Loco because we often eat there on Thursdays (that’s 99-cent taco night!), and Em and I have already visited St. Vincents, the thrift store on Main Street–one of our favorite places to shop from before our move to Kansas–in honesty I need to admit that it’s about the only place I like to shop. And we’ve become completely hooked on La Michoacana, the Latino ice cream shop a little further down on Main. They make all their ice cream on location, and the strawberry flavor tastes like my father’s-in-law homemade freezer jam. It’s amazing.
Well, this past Saturday, after our first family meal with our international girls with us (it’s continued to be busy), Em and I decided to take them to La Michoacana. It wasn’t until I was in the store and the families sitting at the tables started eyeing us that I realized what an interesting picture we must have made. One mama with two daughters who looked quite a bit like her, a little boy with skin the color of dark chocolate, and two girls from Asia (Jake and Dave stayed home). I had to keep myself from laughing.
Lili, the girl who patiently waited on us through Nina’s four taste tests and my 8-person order, was very kind when I told her the girls would be starting at the Academy next week. “You’ll get the hang of it soon,” she told them and shared how nervous she was when she first started at the public high school in West Chicago (she’s a sophomore there now).
It was a little taste of crazy good.