Two summers ago seven days after my oldest headed off to sleepaway camp for the first time I, feeling lopsided with him gone, called my friend Gayle to see if her family might meet us at the park. I was hoping to be balanced out by some noise and chaos. "Funny you should call! I'm actually already here with a friend and her kids. See you soon!"
Around noon we arrived to find her gabbing away, serving sandwiches and chips to any/all takers. The husbands got a game with a ball going. I went home to gather more lunch supplies, comfy chairs, and blankets. My equilibrium began to return.
It was a rare, spectacular summer day for Chicago, sunny, breezy (but not too breezy), zero humidity, 74 1/2 degrees. In other words, San Diego. A day to bask in, which we did, for hours finding no reason to leave: our kids were getting along, our husbands doing what we asked (right away), and additional friends joined in. Our impromptu gathering was morphing into a day long event.
Dinner became a discussion around four (casualty of being a parent). One person said, "Let's order pizza." Another lobbied for Mexican. I ran home to load up my Radio Flyer with cheese, crackers, grapes, chips and a pitcher of Sangria for happy hour. Soon a pizza guy showed up and the kids charged the stack of boxes asking, "How many pieces can we have?" As many as you want, we said as we sipped our drinks, the sun beginning to set. We wouldn't wrap up until dark.
Eight (or nine?) hours at the park 1/2 block from our house still sits on our top ten of favorite summer, or any, days thus far. Not bad for a Chicago neighborhood many only see as a place to park when going to a Cubs' game. I have only one regret from that day. My older son missed it.
This recipe is from Joy of Cooking, originally called Parsley Lime Vinaigrette.
Whisk together in a small bowl:
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (or oregano)
- 1 teaspoon honey (or agave)
- A pinch or two of salt and cracked pepper
Add in a slow steady stream while whisking:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley