An Open Letter to Chicago
There is a water tower near the O’Hare Airport in Chicago that is painted to look like a rose. Because my middle name is Rose, I somehow, in my childhood mind, understood that water tower to be for me. Every time I rode past it, I pictured it recording that snapshot of my life, and keeping that record along with all the other snapshots it had gathered. I rode past that tower driving to vacations, flying overseas, during arguments, holding the hand of a boy who would end up hurting me, laughing with girlfriends, and driving to our new home in Pennsylvania. Even now, when I happen to ride past that rose water tower, I watch it out of the car window for as long as I can and think about all the times I have rode past it before; all that that represents in my life. It may seem weird, and my family jokes with me about it. Once, we even stopped so I could take a picture by it. But I can’t even remember when it first started, and there is something nostalgically wonderful about it.
In many ways, I love our home in Pennsylvania so much more than Chicago. I could make a list of 100 reasons why Pennsylvania is better than Chicago. And I could probably convince you to move right into our guest room. Don’t think I’m kidding; I have a certain sister living in our guest room right now because of our great luring skills. David and I have been intentional to dig our roots deep here; to pour into relationships, our church, our jobs, and not be afraid to make a home here. Sure, it would hurt like hell to leave. But this is our home right now, and living in the present is really important to us.
But in other subtle ways, Chicago has stolen small pieces of my heart. It only takes small bits at a time, so I don’t fully realize what’s happening. And it’s not until I go back to visit that this strange twinge happens in my heart. It’s like without my mind even knowing it, my heart feels a little more comfortable and a little more understood. It’s not a feeling where I want to move back, or that I miss it so desperately. In fact, even though I love visiting so much, I am always ready to drive back home to Pennsylvania. And yet, it’s a feeling where I am known in a way that no other place knows me.
For a long time, I kind of hated how well Chicago knew me. I hated that Chicago knew the poor decisions I had made, the arguments I had started, the people I had hurt, and the tears I had cried. Every time I visited Chicago, I felt like I needed to prove how well I had done; how much I had overcompensated for the bad things it had seen.
However, I am now realizing what I love so much about Chicago: that it knows all of that stuff, sees the importance in it and how it has made me grow, and always welcomes me back. And Chicago doesn’t stop there, it always reminds me of all of the good things, and those good things so far outweigh the bad that Chicago and I will always end up laughing about it.
I wander through the rooms in my parents’ home, visit our church, walk the dogs around our neighborhood, walk through the woods behind our house; and I remember that time I read christmas stories in that chair by the fireplace, or that time we went to that diner at 1am for milkshakes, or that time we took homecoming pictures in the backyard…and those emotions flood back in the best of ways.
And so, dear Chicago, I have come to visit you again, and this time in the fall. I haven’t been to Chicago during the fall for quite a few years, and I already know it’s going to feel fresh and new; yet familiar and comforting all at the same time.