To Chicago with Love from Denver

“And if Denver is home,” the pilot says, “then welcome home.”

I’ve always been proud of being a Chicagoan—we have a very in-your-face way of saying our a’s, and we won’t think twice before cutting you off in conversation or on the highway, but we manage to be just a little less full of ourselves and a little less annoying than New Yorkers. Also, our city is clean and the lake is beautiful.

But while I’m proud to be from Chicago, I also recognize how little I know about the place and how loose my grip on the title Chicagoan is. You see, I grew up an hour from the city, not even in the same county (it is forty-five minutes by car not in rush hour and an hour by train if you took the Metra. And you should always take the Metra).

I grew up taking the train downtown to Ogilvie every year to go to the Lyric Opera, the Chicago Symphony, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, The Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and numerous other museums. We always went to Navy Pier and sometimes to Buckingham Fountain, and we would skate under The Bean and look at the Christmas story along Marshall Fields’ windows in winter. But I realized that I didn’t know where Hyde Park was and that I hadn’t been to Lincoln Park Zoo in ages and that there was so much more to the city than the Navy Pier Ferris wheel and Millennium Park.

But I had time. I was going to end up in Chicago. I knew it. That’s why I chose a faraway Georgia school for college—to have some years away from Chicago before I moved back. That’s one of the reasons we picked the University of Illinois for law school—so that we were close to Chicago and would most likely get a job there. My husband even spent two summers in the city for internships, and we turned several evenings into dates, wandering around Grant Park and the Loop.

And I still had time. I was, at the time, only three hours from the city. And we were going to move downtown someday, or at least into one of the suburbs, and I would have time to discover just why I was so proud to belong to Chicago and what other things there were to love about it as we went.

So you can imagine my surprise when we moved to Colorado. I have nothing against Colorado, except that it isn’t green and its mountains are too, well, rocky. And that it doesn’t have the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Lyric, Oak Street Beach, or—

Or, I guess, the fact that it isn’t Chicago and that I have never loved a city the way I love Chicago—not even Oxford, which is saying something—and that I am having trouble getting over the grief of not getting to know it like I always planned I would.

Not that I can’t visit or anything. I just have to be more intentional.

But that’s what brought this on:

 

We could have been close,
You and me.
I always thought we would be.
I would have loved your sharp turns
and bridges
And you would have taught me how
to love humanity while also seeing it.
I miss how I saw myself in the glass
and silver reflections, and I miss how
we would have grown together,
revealing secrets to each other the
way the river hides and finds itself as
it slips around the buildings.
Perhaps it would have been a bad
relationship, and I would have
resented your loudness and the way you
bare everything old and new and
wrecked.
Perhaps there wouldn’t have been
room for me, and you would have
suffocated me the way you’ve
suffocated the sky and stars that
spill out over the lake.
But I think I would have learned that
while you may knock me over with a
brush of your broad shoulders,
You also always have arms open to
enfold more,
Including the traveler and the
homesick
Me