March 31, 2020

Dear Mom,

I’m wondering if you realize that all “non-essential” businesses are closed due to the Coronavirus? Even if I could pick you up and take you to Barone’s for dinner on Wednesday evening, it would be closed. Please pray for our favorite businesses which are really suffering right now because they have been forced to close, even The Little Traveler in Geneva. Try to imagine all of Oak Brook Mall closed, including Neiman Marcus, no popovers with strawberry butter, no steaming cups of hot chicken soup.

As I sit here in work-out clothing, my hair in a top-knot and no make-up, I’m thinking about your effortless style. You would never be sitting in these clothes, even in the midst of the Coronavirus. What are you wearing right now? As kids we were truly unaware of your awesome sense of fashion and how you always took great care of yourself. Just like we assumed every backyard bordered a Stations of the Cross walk though the woods, we also assumed that every mother looked as good as you did. One of the blessings of being a child is that you are too busy building forts to pay attention to how people look. 

Let’s take a moment to pay tribute to one of our favorite fashion forward providers, The Little Traveler which is also closed right now. This business has been incredibly kind to us in numerous ways so we have to brag on them in the midst of shut-down life with the hope that even more people will share our joy in sitting down for lunch in the Little Traveler cafe when the doors re-open.

We just ate lunch there right before the coronavirus BLEW UP! As usual, we had our “petite luncheon” because we can’t get enough of the cheese spread on those sandwiches. As a little girl we’d “get fancy,” i.e. dress up and I’d order three of those pimento and creamy cheddar cheese triangles with my cup of soup. I loved them so much that you asked for the secret recipe from the chef and he gave it to you! I enjoyed these Little Traveler sandwiches in my rainbow lunchbox all through grade school and middle school. I’ve turned your recipe files inside out looking for that recipe and can’t find it — painful! Nick and Victor still work in the cafe and whenever I’m there with out you they always ask me, “How’s your mother? When is she coming in again?” They turned backflips when you walked through the door last time and I tipped Victor ten dollars because he loves you so much.

2/27/’20 Lunch at The Little Traveler before CoVid19 takeover

I always wanted you to be one of the middle-aged models who visited our table telling us all about their chic suits and handbags. I thought they were middle-aged, but now that I’m middle-aged they don’t look nearly as old. You thought it would be more fun if we both modeled together. Instead of modeling we created a Christmas book, Back to the Manger, detailing the journey of their one-of-a-kind Neapolitan nativity scene. It took you a year to complete the oil paintings for this book. Remember, persevering through eye strain from painting using a magnifying glass? All those illustrations of the nativity figures are no bigger than a pinkie fingernail and so much detail, down to Mary’s blue and red robes. I hope you realize that Back to the Manger is still selling, ten years later and The Little Traveler and The Geneva History Museum are strong supporters. Most books don’t last even five years so kudos to you, artist mama. This picture features a darling little boy who stopped by our signing table last December, eager to “read” the book, even though he couldn’t read.

Unlike you, dad never devoted himself to shopping. This proved a boon to The Little Traveler on Christmas Eve as he raced through all 35 rooms of the store, hoping to fulfill his entire Christmas shopping list before they closed at 5:00 p.m. Stressful! Dad bought the precious Santa Claus music box sleigh that we set-up on your secretary desk every year. No one can keep all of the Christmas decks a person packrats in their basement when they move, but this sleigh is so unique and special that we haul it over from storage.

Please know, as an adult who finds it an extra chore to look nice in these days of casual Covid closet living, I respect and admire your commitment to taking care of yourself, taking vitamins, using night creams, and not sunburning your face.  All of it resulted in you being the “hot little grandma” strolling the halls of memory care at 85. Just ask Vito, he’ll tell you it’s true!

All my love,


photo credits:

boys building forts – Missouri Department of Conservation,

boy looking at book: Margaret Philbrick