Sweet Home, Chicago

29 Feb

(Part of the writing practice I did today)

Buckingham Fountain with my friend, Vanessa, back years ago

Chicago:

I called it home once.

The Metra would, without my parents’ knowledge, whisk me away from stark suburbia to The City where magical adventures awaited.

With my friends, I’d skate on State or press my face against the ornate Marshall Fields Christmas window displays, wondering to my teeange self if they might hold the key to happiness.

Often, I would find my way to North Avenue Beach after lingering at the Hancock’s 95th floor to sneak a peak at life above the Lake Effect.

Through Navy Pier I once walked with white platform sandals on Prom night to the Odyssey, the boat where my senior year boyfriend sweetly but naively promised me forever with a $95 purple amethyst from JC Penny.

The lions guarding the Art Institute would welcome me with their protective scowls to discover George Seurat’s version of Sunday in a Parisian park or “American Gothic” and I’d gaze into a window of Edward Hopper’s soul otherwise known as “Nighthawks.”

Chicago means Buckingham Fountain during a summer sunset right before I had to sprint to the 5PM train to make it back in time for dinner without my mother knowing. It is fireworks at the Taste of Chicago and sweaty humid afternoons spent wandering.

It’s me as a production assistant for a commercial at Charlie Trotter’s posh restaurant where I first learned what was really in fois gras.

It is Shakespeare and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, cultural experiences I discovered for the first time on awkward middle school field trips that left an indelible imprint in my memory.

Chicago was my cousin’s church cathedral wedding at the same venue where Cameron Diaz married Dermot Mulrooney in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”

It is Giordano’s pizza and Chicago Pizza and Ovengrinder where I discovered heaven as a food.

The piece of heaven I'm referring to

It is ornate bridges and a green river on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s shopping on Michigan Avenue and driving down Lakeshore Drive by myself the first day I got my driver’s license.

It is smokestacks and breath that freezes in your lungs before you can catch it. Buildings so tall I lay down on the pavement just to see them scrape the sky.

It’s the El train and shiny lights at night. Taxis everywhere. Buses rumored to be homes for rats. The financial district deserted by dusk.

Admittedly I have never been an adult while living in Chicago. I’ve become a California girl and replaced a lake with an ocean, bitter bleak winters that build character and frostbite tolerance with February short sleeved mornings with windows down and sunscreen streaks across my arms.

Yet Chicago whispers to me. When I let myself think of it, it beckons. And slowly I let myself remember driving down 290 under the Post Office building into a real City where people work and bustle and toil and become. And in that moment, I go home.

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One Response to “Sweet Home, Chicago”

  1. Vanessa February 29, 2012 at 5:51 am #

    Mel! Come home and visit! We have a comfy futon and are oh so close to Wrigley field! I’m on a bus right now headed south on state St. I’m facing the Harold Washington library where I sometimes work on papers and as a reward, I get to stop at Nordstrom rack! Ah, I love Chicago! Come back!

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