Monday, August 4, 2008

chicago, home . . .

the concept of home has never been a concrete one for me. born in a town in southern california, we soon moved on to another southern california town and then - you guessed it - yet another (pasadena, simi valley, chino hills - for anyone who's keeping track). at 9, my parents broke the news to me that, just for the heck of it, they wanted to rip me away from all of my third-grade best friends, an elementary school where i was both math-olympics champion and most popular underclasswoman, and the natural beauty of southern california to see how i would fare in the desolate wilds of the northwestern chicago suburbs.

or at least that's how it felt.

so for the next 9 years, we made our home on eisenhower circle and i made some of the best friends i'll ever have. we christmased (new verb!) in california and spent two weeks there every summer, so it always retained a sense of homeyness to me. but as the rest of elementary school and junior high passed and bled into high school, new roots had begun to grow under me that tied me, if not to the place, at least to the people around me who made this place home.

senior year came, and along with it the question that no sane adult should ever ask unsolicited - so little suzy, where are you going to go to college? (read: i don't have anything else to say to you, since i only marginally know your parents, but you look about seventeen and i'm fairly uncreative, so here goes. OR, you know, my father and his father both went to harvard, and i may have foolishly resisted them for about a month at your age to try and make my own decision, but now i see the wisdom of their ways - parental and societal pressure are the way to go!)
i chose westmont college, in santa barbara, california, not knowing at this time whether my family would be living in illinois (home) still or in menlo park, in NORTHERN california of all places. that story is a saga unto itself and deserving of another post at another time, but suffice it to say that in the end we were all california-bound.

looking back, i couldn't be more happy. hindsight, and all that. but i never could have known. i threw a tantrum at 18 about our family's decision to move that, i'm ashamed to say, was not too far off from the one i had pitched at 9 when finding out the same news. but menlo park, nothern california, has been more than a good place for all five of us to be. and now that the three of us children are in various stages of adulthood, we are closer (proximity-wise. proximally?) than we would have been if mom and dad decided to stay in chicago. i'm glad and grateful for the move.

but for a few days every year, i come home. the home where fireflies light up the dusky sky, where thunderstorms roll in on gray afternoons and the puffiest cotton-ball clouds you've ever seen open up drain all of the contents in five furious minutes, where soda is 'pop' and freeways are tollways and you have to declare allegiance to a baseball team and you can eat the best hot dog you will ever have and the friends who make this place home are more like family than i ever imagined anyone not of my own blood could be.

so, home. that old adage, stitched on to countless pillows for countless years about it being where the heart is - well, i suppose that's true. and even as i hope to learn how to bring my heart and my current physical location (wherever that may be) closer and closer together, i think there will always be a bit or piece of it that remains where these people are.

No comments: