I consider myself an Associate Adult, an adult in training, lacking the full expertise required for the prestigious title of Functional Adult but making progress toward that end. However, in every self-help book I’ve ever read which details how to lead a successful, mature, grown-up life, making friends is a must. Whenever you move somewhere new, you must establish a base group of people upon which you can depend to jump start your car in the dead of winter or to show up at your door on a Friday night to drink your extra beer and have a few laughs. All the life advice books declare hosting a friendly gathering to be a critical milestone on the way to a happy well rounded adult life.
Therefore, I made the terrifying decision to leave the safety of my comfort zone and invite some of these new friends of mine over for an evening of board games and my cooking, something I’ve become quite proud of over the last few months. Naturally, I spent the entire week leading up to this event in a total panic. Would there be enough food? Would they like it? Did any of them have dietary restrictions? Would they bring board games (my selection is very limited)? Would they talk to each other? Would I have enough time to dust my living room and do the dishes and clean the bathroom and vacuum the floor?
These questions and many more flashed through my brain from the moment I sent the invites. Suddenly, minor projects around my apartment which had gone by the wayside for weeks were now brought into sharp and immediate focus. I always talked about stringing up some twinkle lights on my balcony to make it look cozy and inviting but I just never could find the time to get around to it. Well… No time like the present and nothing like the motivation imminent company to get the ball rolling.
The evening arrived with much preparation, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning. But it came and brought with it the treat of friendly company in a cozy home. As with many things in my life, I drastically overprepared. The small army which I was ready to feed never showed up and I had about twice as much food as I needed but five of my fellow new hires came for dinner, all with their own board games. After dinner we sat down to play House on the Hill which was entirely new to me. We had a fantastic time riddling our way through several haunted house scenarios in a game where teamwork is essential. It was far more laid back than I’d anticipated despite the fact that not a single one of my house guests partook in a drop of alcohol all evening.
It wasn’t quite like what I’d imagined. My idea of a good time always involved baking cookies with my elementary school friends and having a Harry Potter marathon. Everyone seemed to be on their very best behavior but we had fun nevertheless. After we all had our fill of food and games, people gathered their coats and headed for home leaving me with an overstuffed refrigerator and a happy heart.
Following an excitement filled morning at the University of Notre Dame where we were given a front row seat to all the school pregame festivities, my parents and I decided to slow things down a bit and set out for a quiet afternoon in Michigan City. The Michigan City Lighthouse was recommended to me by a coworker as a Northern Indiana must-see. He strongly suggested we try to catch the lighthouse at sunset, scheduled to occur at precisely 6:12pm on the evening of our visit.
We arrived several hours before the sun was due to perform its dazzling light show so we entertained ourselves at the Michigan City mall, Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets. My mom and I had a fantastic time touring the shops and bringing my wardrobe a step closer to perfection although my dad was less enthusiastic. He contented himself to wait on a bench by the door and google the scores of the CSM Oredigger football game on his phone. However, we made it up to him when we all crossed the street for dinner at The Polish Peasant with our bags a little heavier and out wallets a little lighter.
Even before we ordered our food, I felt like I’d stumbled onto a new favorite. It reminded me of my Oma’s tiny kitchen from the decorative plates artfully arranged on the wall to the lace curtains that dappled the honey autumn light filtering through the windows. The red tablecloths and cozy atmosphere mingled perfectly with the warm scents of savory meats and bread fresh out of the oven. Despite only being able to pronounce half of the items on the menu, it was impossible to go wrong. We feasted on a meal of Polish sausage, pierogies, stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes; the kind of food that fills up your heart as well as your stomach and would make any sensible Hobbit proud. We loved it so much that we ordered dessert, something we rarely do, knowing full well that we could barely manage another bite.
With full bellies and happy hearts, we made our way to the Lighthouse, still licking powdered sugar from our fingertips. Sunset truly is the best time to view this attraction. Being mid October and off season for tourists, the parking lot and beach were relatively deserted as we walked out to the lighthouse. A stiff wind tugged at our coats and made small waves slap at the edge of the pier. The orange sherbert light sparkling on the churning surface of the water was well worth our cold feet and ruffled hair. The lighthouse itself posed for many photos, regally silhouetted against the flaming horizon fading to ashen blue. Even as the last rays of sun retreated from the rippling waves of Lake Michigan, the tip of the lighthouse winked to life.
After witnessing this changing of the lights over Lake Michigan, we said goodnight and goodbye to Michigan City and headed for home. A day of food and leisure had left us happily exhausted and we all slept exceedingly well that night.
Of the many attractions to be found in Indiana, one of the most well-known is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart located at the University of Notre Dame. As such, this particular sight shot to the top of our itinerary when my parents flew in from Colorado to visit for the weekend. The University of Notre Dame is a lush and beautiful campus with its many carved stone doorways and pale brick structures. The spire of the gothic-style Basilica is visible from the highway, outreaching all else in its quest for the heavens. It is reminiscent of the towering cathedrals which are the centerpieces of many historic European old town squares. The arched ceilings of the Basilica are painted royal blue and metallic gold in eternal imitation of a cloudless starry night sky. I felt like an 11 year old at Hogwarts entering the great hall for the first time and looking up. Many biblical characters are also richly portrayed in the exquisite plafond.
We were thrilled to spend part of our Saturday morning touring this stunning place but what we didn’t know is that Saturday, October 12th was Game Day. Not just any game day. This was a Notre Dame home game against the USC Trojans, the top rival of the fighting Irish. The wide trimmed lawns and student commons were hardly the only green on campus. Toddlers to grandparents flocked to Notre Dame, sporting their proud Irish colors in preparation for the event of the season. The vaulted halls of the Basilica were flooded with emerald as fans thronged to the university for a day of sightseeing and tailgating.
The electric buzz of pregame anticipation was infectious. The student commons’ were dotted with easy-ups where handwritten signs advertised brats and burgers for sale in support of countless student organizations. The smokey scent of game food sizzling on a grill wafted around every corner and we followed our noses when our stomachs began to growl from all the leisurely strolling about campus. As we bit into our brats, we spotted the crisp uniforms and tall emblemed hats of the marching band as the musicians started assembling and tuning up for the game.
With all the vivifying excitement surrounding us, my mom didn’t feel right calling it a day until we had stopped in the school bookstore and stocked up on Notre Dame green apparel which she noted with appreciation was a ‘good green.’ As Notre Dame is a D1 school and will never compete against the silver and blue of my beloved Colorado School of Mines Orediggers, I can safely say that my parents and I are now happy and proud to be Notre Dame fans. We plan to explore the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes on our next Notre Dame adventure.
We concluded our Notre Dame outing by being the only people to prematurely leave the campus ahead of kickoff. Our bus driver, a friendly sort from Chicago chatted us up until we reached the lot where we had paid $30 to park our car for a couple of hours. While families threw footballs and munched on classic tailgate grub, we departed, heading to the next stop on our day’s itinerary — Michigan City.