Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I visited Chicago a couple of weekends ago, and it was bittersweet. Bittersweet, but less so than when I visited last fall. Because gradually, with the pace of the year that has unfolded behind us in this slow town, I have come to feel a sense of belonging in Worthington, Ohio. Our family has found a new rhythm that works in this new town.

When I was in Chicago, I took a walk down to Lake Michigan. And I walked to the beach where I often took my little boys to swim in polluted water. My heart ached because there were pieces of them left in that sand, pieces of their younger selves. I looked for sea glass to bring home to them to add to their collection that they built from this very beach. Each wave that crashed to the shore erased a little more of their younger selves.

It isn’t Chicago that I miss so much anymore, but that time in our lives. I don’t want it back, but I ache for its passing. I don’t miss this view—a beautiful lake whose polluted water stretches toward skyscrapers on one side and factories on another—but for what happened here, which was nothing much. We splashed in the water while I barked orders for the boys to keep their mouths shut so as not to ingest the water. We scooped sand into buckets. We looked for treasures. I cradle the sea glass in my palm and will my memories into the blue, the green, the creamy white.

Last Monday we took the boys to a Memorial Day parade in our new town. As we were leaving the house, one of Luke’s good friends from school was passing our yard on his bike. He and his mom and sister decided to park their bikes in our yard and walk to the parade with us. Along the way, we met up with our neighbors and their three boys.

That pack of boys sat perched on the curb, jostling one another and joking and dancing when they discovered that they were sitting on an anthill. With ants in their pants, they wiggled and laughed and the sun shone down upon their heads. They unabashedly held hands, still young enough for this little boy gesture of friendship. They cheered for the horses, the fire trucks, the old men dressed in clown costumes.

And I stood behind them, holding my own private memorial. For one day, even next year, perhaps, I will stand in this same place and my heart will ache for this day. When Luke won’t hold hands with anyone anymore or Henry becomes terrified of clowns, I will miss this very spot on the side of the road, not a beautiful vista, but an everyday plot of dirt and pavement and grass and ants that holds a part of my boys’ childhood.


Martha-Lynn said...

Wow, Ser. I can SO relate to this, and I have yet to change the physical location where we brought Eva home from the hospital. Just thinking back to the way I used to hold her when she nursed, or the way we used to bathe her...just little thoughts like that make my heart ache, too. And some day when we move on from our little half-double in Clintonville, we'll come back and she won't want to get out of the car because it'll be hot and she's listening to her music and the car is air-conditioned and I'll stand on the sidewalk and cry for the tiny baby we brought up the stairs (seemingly) not so long ago. Time goes far too fast.

Bethany Torode said...

I bet you do have emblems, it just takes time and curiosity to find them. Have you read anything about archetypes? Jung believed we have all these symbols in our unconscious. I read the book "Dance of the Dissident Daughter" by Sue Monk Kidd and she has a LOT about them in there. And a friend of mine bought archetype cards at Borders (at the time, I pulled out "Pioneer" and "Healer" images, which was exactly fitting for what I was going through at the time.) Pretty neat. Look for specifically feminine symbols - I've had it happen with a phoenix, peacock, even a witch lately. :-) Watch what gifts you are given, from your kids and friends, because people reflect it back to us in those objects.

eva said...

It is interesting for me that you wrote this post now, as I am preparing a return to Chicago but not just for a visit, but a strange re-beginning after this time in La Rochelle. I already think of places like Butternut Park as having those "memorial" and nostalgic qualities you describe, but yet, we will be there again soon rebuilding a new present. I can't quite figure out what it's going to feel like. But it is good also to see that nostalgia doesn't indicate actual dissatisfaction with the present, more just the acknowledgment of the nature of impermanence and the sadness of letting go.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this blog, Ser. It left a lump in my throat. Love, Mom

Beck said...

My dad grew up in Chicago, did you know?

Anonymous said...

You're hitting on a very deep paradox. Why is it that "happy" memories rarely make us happy?

I'm reminded of leaving high school and hating that it all had to end. And the same with college. But really, nobody in their right mind would want to stay in either for any longer than 4 years. And going back to visit is rarely a happy experience, ultimately. Really, just bittersweet. You just have to have faith that the future will continue to provide you with new happy times and memories, as you allude to, and that the past, no matter how perfect it seems in retrospect, is never the pinnacle.

You just have to make sure to keep good records of those memories, so you can eventually have one triggered by almost any sensory perception, and end up paralyzed with bittersweetness 24/7.

so yung said...

This post made me think of the Theotokos, and the lines in Scripture that say she carried these things in her heart.

I love how you share your parenting experiences ... for me, a non-parent, I feel like I'm getting to peek inside a place I've never been. Maybe you should write a parenting book ... I'd definitely buy it and give as my baby shower present!

Jenny said...


Just beautiful. We're totally on the same page with this one. I think you've inspired me to post something today, despite my messy house and the chaos of moving.


glenda said...

I'm sad you're not in Chicago anymore! Sounds like you left just around the time I moved here....Glad I found your blog though!