Yes, I know, they’ve renamed it. But Chicagoans are notorious for not going along with change. It will be called the Sears Tower for years still. But I digress.
My mother got the boys Lego models of the Sears Tower and John Hancock buildings for Christmas. Not being born and bred Chicago kids, they said “Oh.” Their mother, who was born and raised in an Irish/Italian/Polish neighborhood in a South Side suburb, said “Oh cool!!!”
I don’t really remember the Sears Tower being built. But I do remember my grandfather anticipating its opening. He couldn’t wait to take my brothers and I up to the top. My grandmother on the other hand, was not as thrilled about this excursion. Don’t get me wrong – my grandmother enjoyed taking her grandchildren places. Grandma and Grandpa took us to zoos and museums and cemetaries (which was really my grandma’s doing.)
The problem with this particular excursion was that Grandma had a horrible fear of heights and vertigo. Going to the top of the world’s tallest building was not her idea of a good time. But, she was a good grandma and wife, and since the rest of us couldn’t wait to go, she came along.
Maybe she thought it would be okay because we were inside, in the safety of walls and steel and a roof over our heads. But I remember her being very unhappy just going up the elevator. I can’t blame her on that one. I even find the elevator ride up to the top a bit stomach-bending. Once those doors open, she was met with floor to ceiling windows. And with that, she was done in.
I vaguely remember that trip up there – I wasn’t much more than six or seven. But I do remember that we were horrible children, my brothers and I, because we knew that Grandma was incapacitated. She clung to the wall and stayed there the entire time, while we three brats ran amuck, climbing up the railing next to the window, pressing our noses against the clear glass, going on and on about how high up were. My grandfather wasn’t much better, he ran amok just as much as we kids did. Meanwhile, my grandmother was stuck to the wall like velcro, calling out to us from her safety point to get down, back away from the window, don’t climb up on that railing!
We didn’t listen. I don’t think we kids realized that my grandmother was terrified out of her mind. We just knew that our retired schoolteacher grandma who was usually right there correcting our grammar and making sure we behaved properly wasn’t able to keep us in line for once. We were literally out of her reach.
Over the years, I returned to the top of the Sears Tower – with my dad, with my friends. But I don’t recall my grandparents ever taking us back up there. We kept close to the ground.