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O.Henry Ending

Deep Dish

A family vacation to remember

By Cassie Bustamante

Every family has the quintessential summer vacation that stands out in its history. Ours is a 2017 road trip halfway across the country, from Maryland to South Dakota, with stops along each way in Chicago and St. Louis. I’d just sold the vintage store I’d set up with a friend and had decided to spend some of the profits on an epic family vacation, one the kids would remember for a lifetime.

We load up our cherry-red Ford Flex with snacks, pillows, luggage, plus 11-year-old Sawyer and 10-year-old Emmy, and all of their “necessities” (rainbow unicorn hooded blanket — check). My husband, Chris, a Virgo and Type A planner, has plotted out our vacation in great detail. As we begin our first leg, we excitedly chat about the fun things we’ll get to do and see during our two-night stay in our first stop, the Windy City: a Cubs game, the Field Museum, the iconic Bean and, of course — the most highly anticipated and arguably Chicago’s greatest contribution to culinary arts — deep dish pizza. In fact, Chris has planned it so that we’ll arrive in Chicago just in time to check in to our hotel and walk to one of the city’s most famed pizza joints, Lou Malnati’s.

About a half-hour from our destination, traffic slows a bit. “Mommy, I don’t feel so good,” Emmy calls from the back seat. From a young age, our daughter has been subject to bouts of motion sickness on long trips, so we chalk it up to that and assure her that we will be there soon.

“Just close your eyes and try to rest,” I say reassuringly.

A few minutes later, I’m rushing Emmy out of the backseat of the car so she can barf on the side of Interstate 80. It’s a routine we’re both familiar with. We give her a minute to make sure it’s all out, then hit the road again.

When we arrive in Chicago, Emmy’s motion sickness doesn’t seem to be passing, but the rest of us are the worst combination of exhausted and hungry. I tell her I’m sure she just needs some fresh air and time for her stomach to settle; the walk to the restaurant will do her some good.

After a few blocks, we arrive, put in our name, and wait outside Lou Malnati’s front door to be called. Emmy, we notice, still looks pale and miserable. Chris and I exchange “oh crap” glances as she says, “I think I’m gonna be sick again.”

In a moment of panic, I rush her toward the nearest restroom, dragging her by the hand behind me. She doesn’t make it into a stall and unleashes all over the floor, counter and sinks. I clean up as best I can while shouting to women at the door, “Do not come in here right now!!” (In retrospect, we should have stayed outside, as Chris likes to remind me.)

Mortified, I find an employee and explain what’s just happened, apologizing profusely. Emmy and I head back outside where Chris and I decide that the best course of action is ordering pizza-to-go for the rest of us.

Back at our hotel room, we tuck into the pizza with gusto — except Emmy, as you might suspect. And for the next few minutes, the subtle sounds of chewing and involuntary “mmmms” echo throughout. Chris, Sawyer and I are so swept away by deep-dish pizza we savor every warm and gooey bite while Emmy looks on from bed, eyes sunken and sad.

Thankfully, after a night of sleep, she’s fine. We scurry through the Windy City, taking in as much as possible in our 48-hour jaunt.

But six years later, it isn’t a tourist site or baseball game that is top of mind when we think of that trip. It’s that pizza — the one that Emmy never got to taste. And while it might not be what we had in mind when we set out to create the vacation of a lifetime, we’re confident we made memories our kids will not forget, no matter how hard they try.  OH