revealed how very quickly I have assimilated to my new home town of Beaver and my new big city of Pittsburgh. I felt rather out of place during that first visit back to Chicago. And oddly uncomfortable.
My second visit back to Chicago, (the city from which I am currently writing this post) revealed something quite different.
I love Chicago.
George and I first moved to the Chicagoland area in 1992. After seminary we remained in the northern suburbs until he landed his first job down in Evanston - where we then re-located and remained until last June. 18 years.
My life can be divided into the:
18 years I spent growing up in northern Virginia - Northern Virginia
4 years invested at Ohio University
18 years in Chicagoland
??? years in Pittsburgh(land) - sorry, the "land" part is habit
It is amazing to me that the same number of years I spent growing up in Springfield, actually equals the amount of time I lived in the incomparable city of Chicago.
When I think about it this way, I realize that both cities could be considered my "hometown". For just as my 18 years in Springfield held life milestones, our time in Chicagoland encompassed seminary, getting by on an enormous amount of freelance jobs, auditioning/performing/teaching/private coaching, George landing his first job, purchasing our first home year, pregnancy and our introduction to parenthood, teaching music, selling a home and buying a new one, having a second child, etc. A lifetime of experiences took place for us in Chicago.
I love Chicago.
I was fortunate to be involved in an incredible birthday celebration for an old friend this weekend. She took such care in both hand-picking with whom she wanted to share her 40th and where she would do so. Chicago was the hands down winner for the destination, and thankfully I made the cut for this momentous occasion. She loves Chicago and wanted to share her birthday and her favorite city with a number of women in her life - most of whom I had never met, and several who had never visited Chicago.
We took up residence for 2 nights at a rented condo in Boystown. Look it up.
It was the first time in 18 years that I took in all the "touristy" Chicago haunts, not counting my last 3 months living in Chicagoland when I managed to cram the Chicago Historical Society, the Drake, the Planetarium, the (then) new modern wing of the Art Institute, and the Sears Tower (or, now, the "What you talkin' 'bout Willis Tower?") into the lives of our children before we skipped town for Pittsburgh.
Today, however, wandering around the city was a relaxed treat.
A run on the lakefront.
Walking the Mag Mile without destination.
Stopping at Garrett Popcorn rather than having it sent to me as a gift.
Taking a Trolley Tour of the city with a fabulous tour guide who reminded me why this place is so incredible.
Comedy Sportz (a favorite of mine since you don't have to worry about cringing over the material)
A limo ride through the city at night.
I love Chicago. So much. Always have.
I just kind of like it better as a visitor. Sure, it's sweet to live here, but as I told George over the phone, "I'm enjoying it more as a tourist." Just feels like I have more time to really appreciate it now, then when I was a resident with a life which kept me distracted and thus obscured the beauty of this great place.
As we wandered around downtown, my memory of the landmarks was linked to auditions and/or gigs. I auditioned there. I shot an industrial there. Oh, I did a Marshall Fields commercial there. Parked there in order to audition in that building. I don't, however, have memories of just enjoying the city. It was always a destination for the purpose of landing a gig. I missed out on just exploring it for fun other than the random visit to the Art Institute or the spring break that I took the kids to every museum I could. Hey, there's nothing like wearing out your children by taking them to every free museum day you can in one week!
On my next trip back, I intend on taking some Pittsburgh gal pals with me, for I want to show it off to my new friends here in Beaver.
It is most definitely a "return-to" city. Over and over and over.
Sweet home, Chicago.
Chicago, I may not live here any longer, but I do indeed love you. Thank you for contributing to 18 years of my life and playing a huge part in molding me into who I am now: a small town girl with a heart and soul of a big city.
I'll be back.