A year ago we moved from Chicago to my hometown in Indiana. A few weeks ago, we moved back. Instead of walking outside at night to the sound of crickets and the bright yellow flicker of lightning bugs, I now walk outside to the loud rumbling of El trains and the orange glow of street lamps. Golden cornfields and green trees have given way to a lively cityscape of gray sidewalks and angular buildings jutting toward the sky. We traded the 2nd floor for the 20th; car-rides for walking; and friendly neighborhood policemen for baton-wielding riot police during the NATO Summit. It’s good to be back.
I love Chicago. I love it for everything that makes it unique to the world like the lakefront, deep dish pizza, and ‘Da Bears. But most of all I love it because of the many happy memories and important life moments that Ian and I have shared together in this city. We leased our first apartment in Hyde Park, Ian proposed to me at a Lincoln Park florist, we got married in the Gold Coast, and we brought puppy Teddy home during the winter that featured the famous Lake Shore Drive-closing blizzard of 2011. So when I was packing up our boxes for our Chicago-to-Indiana move last year, I expressed some bittersweet concern to my aunt about leaving the city that had meant so much to us. I told her, “We’re both really excited to move to Indy, but I think it might be hard to drive south on Lake Shore Drive one last time in May,” to which she predicted, “I’m sure there will be some tears.”
Chalk it up to moving stress and U-Haul adrenaline, but I didn’t shed any tears the day we moved to Indiana. We put on our business faces, plopped our belongings into our 2nd-floor walk up, and happily began our year-long adventure as Indianapolis suburbanites. Little did we know how meaningful that year would be.
Admittedly, walking around my old hometown last year sometimes felt a little bit...weird. Every street corner had a memory to share, and even the brand-new buildings stood as glaring reminders of what used to be there - an indelible reminder that the only constant in life is Change. And when I saw movies at my hometown theater with Ian or went on day trips to go apple picking or antique shopping, I felt my nostalgic childhood memories of those places give way to new, seemingly-less meaningful ones. As if my adult memories are less worthy than those of my childhood.
Even though living in my hometown sometimes felt a little weird, I loved living near my family. Childhood with my family was certainly a special time, but last year was, too. We planted a garden with my parents, dared them to go vegan with us for a month, rooted for the high school football team together, and accompanied my aunt every Tuesday for her chemotherapy treatments. All of these experiences fought a hard battle against the prospect of moving back to Chicago earlier this Spring. Ultimately, Chicago won.
After only a year away, moving back to Chicago was going to be easy. We hired movers this time (whose presence on this earth I now consider to be a precious gift from 6lb 8oz Baby Jesus), and on May 3rd they arrived on time and hauled everything into their truck with frightening efficiency. I loaded a few things into the back of our car, and fetched Teddy with those unfailable words “Wanna go for ride?” - except I added “to Chicago?” to the end. He hopped right in and we set off to meet the big truck in the big city.
As I left my apartment and turned down State Road 32, next to the newly planted cornfields and below the clear blue sky, Teddy poked his head out the side window enjoying the sunshine and the warm Indiana air. I put on my sunglasses and changed the radio station to a local favorite for the last time. As I looked in the rearview mirror at my hometown in the reflection, I felt the sharp pang of bittersweetness at leaving it behind me for the second time in my life. And my aunt’s prediction came true, just one year late.
I love Chicago. I love Indiana. When your heart is in two places, maybe home is, too.