I was born and raised in Wisconsin: born on the far north edge and grew up on the far south edge. I even went to college in Madison. Wisconsin is in my blood, but I don’t miss it. I never quite fit in there, not as the nerdy girl in a much too small Catholic middle school, not as a punk kid who spent too much time alone reading in a small town high school full of popular kids who liked sports and keg parties. Madison was better: I found a niche and had a lot of fun, but it was only ever a stopover on the way to a real life.
Right after college I moved to Chicago. And there, at last, I fit in. I felt immediately and perfectly at home. I loved that city. But, as with so many things, I didn’t realize how much I loved it until I left it. Last winter we packed up and moved across the country and I’ve been missing Chicago ever since. At first it was ok, but as the novelty of a new city, new home, new baby, new life wore off, I began to get homesick. And it just keeps getting worse.
At this point I’m so homesick it hurts. I want to walk along the lake and feel the wind bite into my face. I want to drive down Lake Shore Drive and watch the skyscrapers grow bigger and bigger as we reach the curve at Oak Street. I want to walk down Lake Street under the el tracks and hear the clatter of the train pass by overhead. I want to go to Wilson Street Beach on a rainy day and watch the waves beat the shore.
I want to ride the brown line downtown and wonder whether it will really stay on the tracks around the turn before the Merchandise Mart. I want to go to a movie at River East and ride the escalators up and up and up, each trip to the theater a journey to a new world. I want to be surrounded by well-dressed people and people in outfits so unfortunate I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I want to lower my head and hold my skirt down as I walk across the river on a windy day. I want to drive on Lower Wacker, passing the tourists who obviously got lost down there and whipping around the curve at the turn in the river. I want to walk downtown on a sunny day, the sun glinting off a thousand windows, sometimes so bright you can’t look.
I want to walk to a corner store for a loaf of bread and a half gallon of milk. I want to pass homeless men on the way out and complain about their cigarettes. I want to stand on the platform, waiting for the red line, and look down the tracks every minute to see if the train is coming yet. I want to get a babysitter and go out for dinner with friends at a hip new restaurant in River North, lingering over wine and a cheese plate as the tables turn over around us. I want to take a cab home, surrendering responsibility for that moment and turning around to watch the city lights retreat as we drive north.
I want to walk down Michigan Avenue and feel shopping bags and purses bump into me as I navigate a path through the shoppers and gawkers and hawkers. I want to go to Millennium Park and sit on a bench and feel the ebb and flow of thousands of people enjoying themselves. I want to walk down a crowded street and not see a single person I know. I want to run into a friend downtown and have it, always, feel like a miracle.
But then I wonder: is it Chicago I’m missing or just my life before baby? Do I want to walk along the lake, or do I just want to be alone? Because, while I am alone most of the time, I’m also never, ever alone. I spend all day with Adeline, her needs dictate what we do and when, and she requires almost constant attention. And even if it is Chicago I’m missing, am I just being selfish? We’re here in Denver now, and maybe this really is the best place for us. Do I just need to put my own wants aside and do what’s best for my family?