Thursday, October 22, 2009

I spent a lovely long weekend back in my hometown of Chicago: "Sweet Home Chicago", "The Windy City", "The Second City", "The City with Big Shoulders", and "The City with way Too Many Nicknames", to quote an old comedian friend from years back.

Me Mum still lives in the same house I grew up in, and it's always a trip to head back as an adult and encounter the same side door, tiny kitchen, bright living room, staircase that I used to slide down on my little butt (pictured here)...

...bathroom where I'd get stickers for brushing my teeth every day, and my first bedroom, but this visit, Mom and I took a step outside the box (literally: the house looks like a brick box).

We drove to the apartment building a few miles away where I spent the first 6-8 months of my life (the upper, upper left corner behind my very pregnant mom was our unit), then clocked the distances from there to the school my mother taught at (about 1.4 miles), and from the apartment steps to our new home's front door (somewhere in the range of 5 miles). Why did we do this? Because my mother didn't get her driver's license until several years after I was born. That's right: The woman WALKED everywhere. With either me in her belly or on her back: To and from work, then to and from the old apartment to the new house (to work entire days redecorating, stripping wallpaper, and painting, of course) and back, logging somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 miles/week for a few months.

Yeah. I think I know where I get the endurance thing from.

I went for two runs while home, and traced the same winding footpath on the Salt Creek trail system that she traversed daily, trotting along beneath colorful maples and oaks, imagining my very young self looking about as she hiked along, gazing in wonder at the towering trees and incredibly un-shy deer (one walked right in front of me during my 8 mile run. As in, it saw me, looked me dead in the eye, and ambled across the path, 5 feet in front of me as if to say, "Meh. PEOPLE."). It was then that it hit me in the solar plexus like a falling piece of timber: THIS is where I learned to love the woods. THIS is where my tiny brain first began it's passionate affair with silent contemplation, surrounded by nature.

Needless to say, it blew my mind a little.

The rest of my visit was filled with uproarious laughter with old friends, enough Italian food to wipe out an army (I wish I had a reference to an army the Italians defeated, but I'm drawing a blank), and deep talks with mom. Opening myself to learning more about my past certainly teaches me armloads about who I am now. I'll continue this exploration for the rest of my days.

It's good to come home again.

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