Chicago is calling me home. After the nightmare of these past eleven weeks, Chicago is saying to me, come on home and I’ll comfort you. It is whispering to me in calm, tender voice its winds sing, come back to what you know, to where your heart never left. Soon, I will follow this call, if only part-time.
I love the little town I live in now and have for the past twenty-four years. It is full of heart, warmth, welcoming, diversity, acceptance, and kindness. This town handed me my good, deep, loving friendships. After Peter died, the town rallied behind me and kept me from falling down completely. Hell, half of the town showed up at Peter’s memorial. In my town, I feel like Norm from Cheers with everyone waving or saying hello anywhere I am at. It’s not just me. Everyone is a Norm in this town. My town is made up of the hard-working, middle class, take-care-of-our-own type of people. I am lucky to live in its boundaries and raise my children here. And, it is home for me, yet I plan to seek dual citizenship in Chicago.
Chicago is where I was born and raised. I was educated in its private schools – except for the four years in high school; that was in the burbs. I even graduated from a college in its city center with a degree in Poli Sci, emphasizing on Chicago politics. (Gotta love a good corruption story.) At the age of fifteen, I started to work in its downtown scooping ice cream in a store on iconic State Street. After I moved out to live on my own, I lived in the city for five years. I cheered on Chicago teams, rode Chicago public transportation, frequented Chicago bars and nightclubs, and had, still have, the Chicago walk. Oh, you know – head held high, purse in front, looking people in the eye in long strides rivaling a Kentucky racehorse, only not as graceful.
It wasn’t until I moved in with Peter, at the age of twenty-nine, that I left the city. But the city never left me. Never. It planted itself in my heart and spread its roots into my thoughts, my words, my decisions, my being. I consider myself a Chicagoan and I know that’ll piss off a bunch of Chicagoans. I get it. Going to a suburban high school, I get it…thus qualifying my education. The suburbs are not the city. Still, I lived in the city longer than I lived in the ‘burbs. Well, at least that’s the way I justify my identification of being a Chicagoan.
Peter liked Chicago…to visit. He rode his motorcycle along Lake Shore Drive, attended concerts there, ate in its restaurants, and sailed Lake Michigan every chance he got in the summer. It was his favorite hobby, one he loved and was dedicated to. He lived in Chicago for a few years when he went to college and a bit after. He was a small-town boy, though, and the city’s appeal did not grab hold of him enough to live there. The small-town we settled him was more him. And I wanted to live wherever my small-town boy chose. My love for him outweighed my love for the city. I never regretted settling into the small town I call home. Still, there was always a restless longing in me to return to the city. Its pull relentless.
Yesterday, my son, my girlfriend and I went to look at apartments downtown. Another great friend of mine, (see, this town is filled with good people, great friends), gave me a referral to a locator. These past few weeks, the locator and I have been going back and forth as to my wants and needs. He sent me choices based on my criteria. I would reject or accept. Yesterday, on a beautiful day in the city, I saw my accepts and my heart exploded.
One of my biggest criteria was to be near the lake and see it from the apartment’s windows. Sure, Lake Michigan has its beauty, but it was more than that. The lake connects me to Peter. It is where he spent his summer, sailing, teaching sailing and sailing some more. Sailing was in his heart and I needed to be near the reminder of it, of him. If I am going back to Chicago, even part-time, I need to feel Peter and know he is with me. Lake Michigan tells me he is, or at least it’s where I will feel him.
Yesterday, I may have found the near-perfect apartment. Of course, if these past eleven weeks have taught me anything is nothing is ever a for sure thing…except taxes and, well, death. I am not certain how this will play out or how it will work. And I don’t even care to think about it too much. All I know right now I will have dual citizenship between the city that’s never left my heart, and the town that found its way in. I will try it on for a few months and see how it feels. Maybe I’ll continue to wear it. Maybe I’ll rip it off as it’ll become too much. Or maybe I’ll look at a permanent solution. I don’t know.
What I do know is the best person in my life, the person I adored and loved and grieve about so deeply about every day, sometimes to the point that I don’t know where I am, left my world eleven weeks ago. And I have to feel my feels. Right now, I feel Chicago is calling me home, in a welcoming embrace like a mother comforting a child. And all I want to do is fall into its arms and stay there, if only for right now. Now is all I have. All I ever have.