Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Rarely does it happen that I mix up the years of my life in the way that I, coincidentally, mixed them up today. Distant past, future, present, recent past -- intensely jumbled in the scope of an afternoon. Weird!

I drove to Chicago for our family New Year’s get together. Nothing strange about that. We have done this, through the low and high tides of family life, since, oh, since my family was newly formed.

As I pulled up, a daughter asked if I would give her a ride to Hyde Park (in south Chicago). Sure.

Hyde Park. I lived in Hyde Park after I graduated from college. My very first apartment was in Hyde Park. Some of the worst years of my life were in Hyde Park. (Before they got significantly better.)

After dropping her off at her meeting place, I reviewed my options. It was still light outside. There is a lot here that I would like to walk through again. And reconsider, now, thirty years later.

No. Let me delay that. Let me find Obama’s home first. I’m up on change. Yes, we can!

Hyde Park Boulevard merges into 51st... and suddenly I know exactly where he lives – here:

008 copy

I park and walk around. I expected more patrol, but, he's not here today and anyway, I expect there are hidden cameras I’m not even aware of monitoring my movement. I pause by a cop car. May I take photos? Sure, unless you’re the enemy (he named the enemy; I prefer not to include their mention here).

So, how is it patrolling this part of Hyde Park? Better than my own district. Picking up kids that I know – that’s miserable.
It’s some house, isn’t it?
You should see the one next to his – huge!
It’s cool that he’ll keep it as his own…
Yeah, but they all do that, don’t they?

But keeping your home here – that’s so different than keeping your place in Crawford! Which, in the end, is not to be kept.

We looked at the house together, the two cops and I. This is Hyde Park as I remember it. A block of big mansions, ten blocks of scruffy housing, some more modern high rise apartments, and rows of very undistinguished townhouses.

Why did I hate it here so? Back in the seventies?

The University. At least once a week (this is so true), I have nightmares about this place (thirty years later!). And my inability to fit in. And my distractedness. And my losing hold. In real, non-dream life, I pulled myself up and out of that rat hole eventually. When I met my future husband and he and I paired up.

We got married here:

021 copy

A university chapel. Small, intimate. And for a while, it all made sense – why I should be here, why I should reside in this part of the world.

I walk into the Social Science building, the “tea room” where my ex and I first met. Locked now. It’s winter break. All around the quad, in fact, it's winter beak.

029 copy

I drive down toward the lake. Eventually, we would bring our daughters here. The museum, sure, and then here – to the Piccolo Mondo Restaurant.

032 copy

I want to pause for a drink, but it’s a meals only place and so I move on. To my former grocery store. Co-op. Used to be Co-op. I hear Obama shops here now. Or, he used to shop here. Me, I once bought cartons of ice cream and links of Polish sausage. Disgusting? No, dinner.

I pick up my daughter and we drive back to the northside. We comment on Chicago’s virtues. There are many. I did not see them thirty years ago. Or twenty years ago. And maybe it’s not the place for me. But I’m pleased that I once lived here. I had a yes we can attitude then. Maybe even more then than now.

In the evening, I call Ed and apologize for all that I threw his way just a few hours back. Eh, woman's stuff. He tells me. He has a very matter of fact approach to life.

Woman's stuff. Maybe. Maybe. More likely, my stuff.