O'Hare manic but manageable as families reunite for Thanksgiving
It took several minutes Wednesday for Mary Collins and daughter Madelyn to hug away four months of separations.
Oblivious to other travelers, the two reconnected amid the Thanksgiving Eve bustle at O'Hare International Airport.
"It feels so good," Collins, of Deer Park, said about seeing Madelyn, a physical therapist who lives in Tacoma, Washington. "It's her first time back. It's a long way away."
Similar reunions played out in Terminal 3's arrivals area, where people tried not to think about Sunday's reverse of sad partings on what will be one of O'Hare's busiest days.
Nearly 1.5 million passengers are projected to travel through O'Hare beginning Tuesday and ending Monday.
Donna Slevnik and daughter Kristen scouted the down escalator for a childhood friend of Kristen's arriving from South Carolina.
The Slevniks will host about 20 people at their Naperville home, cooking up a storm with old favorites like sweet potato casserole and stuffing with sausage and apples.
"Thanksgiving means bringing a bunch of people who are close to me together and enjoying each other's company," Kristen Slevnik said.
For Donna Slevnik, "I'm very blessed to have both my parents with us. ... That always makes me a little choked up. My parents are close to 90 ... that's what makes it really special."
Traffic was starting to build and so were some security lines at O'Hare, but travelers reported smooth flying conditions.
The Chicago Department of Aviation expects Sunday to be its most hectic day and recommends flyers arrive two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours for international travel.
Meanwhile, those driving can be thankful for low gas prices. The average for a gallon of regular in Illinois is $2.57, 30 cents cheaper than a month ago.
After cooking for a small army, will the Slevniks put their feet up?
"We don't relax," Donna Slevnik said. "On Friday, we go shopping -- my mom, my sister, my daughters and myself. On Saturday, we take the Thanksgiving stuff down and put it away, and decorate for Christmas."