Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Deb at San Diego Momma posts writing prompts each Tuesday. It's a great way to get your creative juices flowing.

Deb sends us on a trip this PROMPTuesday - to Chicago.  Joe at "The Write Practice" makes it simple.

Write about Chicago.
Write for fifteen minutes.

Chicago skyline, from Wikipedia

For some reason, radio signals were stronger at night, so although during the daytime it seemed I had gone to the other side of the globe, at night I could tune my transistor radio and pick up the faint strands of WLS - the Chicago AM station I used to listen to just last summer, when we lived in Illinois.

Top-40 radio played the same songs the Cincinnati stations played, but it seemed different somehow. When I listened, I could hear it as if it were played through the big horn speakers at the Quarry Park pool - we'd lie on our towels on the pea-graveled beach in the hot August sun and bake while the Supremes and Marvin Gaye washed over us. The scent of Coppertone and chlorine wafted over us. Mary and I had been best friends in seventh grade, but at the end of the summer, my family had sold the house and moved.

My new school was okay, but I felt lonely and out of place. People spoke differently in Ohio, and there were different names for things - like "soda" instead of "pop." Although it even annoyed me when I did it, I couldn't help saying "When we lived in Chicago, we..." more than I should have. I wrote letters to Mary in colored ink on lined notebook paper, big looping letters and cartoons in the margin, and waited for the mail to come.

Lying there in my bed at night, hearing the tinny music through the earplug, I felt an intense longing, as even the ads evoked Chicago places and names. "The Windy City." "The Loop." The lake, Marshall Fields, the Dan Ryan Expressway. I read Carl Sandburg's poems and though I'd never seen a slaughterhouse, and had no idea what painted women beneath gas lamps lured farm boys with, my soul felt connected to the idea of the husky brawling laughing young colossus of Sandburg's time.  It was an odd, manufactured nostalgia, though - we'd lived in the suburbs and at age twelve, I knew very little of the city proper.

Longing is an essential human emotion. Sometimes we fixate on what we've left behind, even if we don't even really know what it is. I would not visit Chicago until a decade or more later, in my twenties, only to find it a strange city nothing like my fantasies.


Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Well done, Aunt Snow!

I've been guilty of that "When we lived in..." phrase myself too often over the past 7 months. I hope I've managed to snuff it out by now.

Deborah said...

Very nice! I've never lived anywhere but Colorado (my first year of life in New Jersey surely does not count) so I can't say that I know how you felt. But maybe someday, if we ever manage to get out of Denver, I'll be waxing nostalgic about life in the Queen City.