Fifty years ago we moved to the Chicago area, and as I’m contemplating moving again next week, I’m skipping through the five places we’ve lived in my mind.
It was a hot sultry summer in 1966 when we took up temporary residence in our Aunt Jennie’s basement bedroom on 57th Court in the western suburb of Cicero, awaiting the availability of our first Chicago home, an upstairs apartment she had found for us in a two-flat, red brick bungalow on 60th Court.
Before Marv started his job as a Cook County Probation Officer that had brought us here, he worked for his cousin on his Water Street Market garbage route. After work, Marv threw his garbage clothes, smelling of the rotten potatoes stop, on the floor by the washing machine outside our bedroom door. And I began to throw up, violently.
We’d been married almost four years and trying to get pregnant for three, a jubilant occasion soon confirmed with a visit to an obstetrician at the now demolished Wesley Memorial Hospital downtown. Marv drove me to my OB appointments—I’d never lived in such a big place—cars speeding down the congested expressway, buildings stretching taller than I’d ever seen, people multiplying at every corner—none of which I was used to from my upbringing in smaller cities. I recall having to stop to discard my barf bags into receptacles on Michigan Avenue; I lost 17 pounds in the first 3 weeks, a memory that never dies. While I was seeing the doctor, Marv would meander over to the building site of the John Hancock which was under construction at the time. Our first child, a son, was born the following March.
Our second Chicago home, in 1968, was a townhouse that we bought way southeast, near 138th and Halsted in Riverdale. Along with working, Marv was completing his master’s in social work when my thrower-upper days commenced again; our daughter was born in August of 1969. Relatives said we must have had the right spin on things to have managed both a son and a daughter. They were envious; we were thrilled.
The potential of lice prompted a move in 1973 to our third Chicago home. New neighbors joined our townhouse development and, while the children were playing in our sandbox, I learned they frequently took lice medication. So, after a spontaneous rage of concern that only a young mom can muster up spontaneously, Marv quickly found us our third Chicago home, a single-family trilevel further south, near 211th and Western in Park Forest, the post WW II planned community made famous by William Whyte in The Organization Man. Those were happy years with neighborhood friends for all of us and an Aquacenter for earning summertime swim badges and a thriving mall with a Marshall Field’s and Sears.
In 1983, I got a phone call inviting me to help start a new nursing program at Trinity Christian College. I had completed bachelor’s and master’s programs along the way and was teaching at a community college. I was excited about the job offer, and after much prayer and family discussion, we moved to our fourth Chicago home, a ranch, about 20 miles northwest to Palos Heights, near 127th and Harlem, where the college was located. The kids had to change high schools, not an easy move during adolescence, but they have forgiven me for it. Marv’s commute stayed about the same; he had left juvenile probation and was now working in special education.
Ironically, our Palos Heights home was on 68th Court, almost directly south from the apartment our Aunt Jennie had found for us in 1966 farther north in Cicero on 60th Court
We had come full circle. But.
When I was getting my master’s degree at the University of Illinois, I had taken the train from Park Forest into the city, getting off downtown at the corner of Randolph and Michigan, where we live now. This time, the crowded scenes of speeding cars, tall buildings, and diverse people won me over. I loved the hubbub and caught the bug to live downtown. Marv, a farmboy at heart, was not excited to think of leaving his yard work, koi pond, John Deere lawn mower, or huge garage with a mélange of tools.
But, we finally moved downtown in 2005. To our fifth Chicago home, this time really in Chicago, a condo building, The Heritage, overlooking Millennium Park, which I’ve talked about often here, and Lake Michigan, an ever-changing canvas of sparkling and rippling blues and grays.
I had retired from teaching nursing in 2000 and was riding the bus downtown for writing classes, attending opera and symphony, volunteering at our new church, and then moaning about the bus fumes when Marv said, “I’ll give you one year to find a place downtown that I can like, and if you don’t find it, I want you to hush up about moving downtown.”
The next day, I began looking at new construction and started coming home with brochures. Then, during my year of looking, our daughter called that her job was bringing her into our area; I asked if she’d like to buy our house: she said, “Whatever.”
And so Marv picked out the brochure he liked best, we took a quick tour, he went out of town and told me to go buy something, and I did. He saw our place a few weeks later and declared I’d done well.
So, this summer of 2016, fifty years after arriving in Chicago, we leave friends in our five places of residence and have had an opportunity to say good-bye to folks from each one. It’s been an inspiring and heartwarming ride, and we are thankful for all the people who have helped make it so.
We are looking forward, now, to living closer to our children and grandchildren (and hopefully never having to pack these stacks of boxes again).
You may find more details about our Chicago life in my book, Caring Lessons: A Nursing Professor’s Journey of Faith and Self.