Hometown Visit

Since trying to plan a trip might not be the best idea at the moment (although we are considering one at the end of October), I decided to take a look back at a special trip we made to Chicago, Illinois about four years ago.

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M. was born and raised in Hinsdale (about 25 miles from the city) and had not been back except for business trips in almost 20 years. He was anxious to revisit places that held some of his favorite memories. I especially loved hearing the stories he narrated as we drove from place to place. Hearing the excitement in his voice and at times talking at such a pace it was if his thoughts were outracing his words he had so much to share. Occasionally he would pause and silently reflect ~ I think he was hearing the voices of friends and loved ones from so long ago in the quiet of his mind ~ this memory still makes me smile.

We drove past where he went to elementary and high school, the church he attended, and then towards the ice skating pond where he once flirted and showed off for the girls back in his youthful, carefree days. We drove past the location of his childhood home (it is no longer there), found the place where his dad owned a restaurant many years ago (surprisingly the building is there and is still a restaurant) and past the house where his beloved grandmother had lived. We drove through a complex in Naperville where he worked for many years after graduating college. (Little did he know that this same company would transfer him to the area where he would randomly and unexpectedly meet this southern belle!) We drove past the location of the community garden on this same site where he first discovered his love of gardening. Sadly, the gardens are gone and all that remains is a field of weeds.

Our visit also included a drive to Downers Grove where he once lived as well.  We visited Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery (isn’t that a cute name?), walked through the small town, and he showed me the first house he ever bought and I could see how proud of it he was ~ even to this day.

There were many foods he wanted me to sample (and we did) such as Italian Beef sandwiches, a Chicago style hotdog and of course, Chicago’s version of pizza.  The trip, however, would not have been complete without a stop at the Bohemian Crystal Restaurant. M. has raved about this place for years so it was a must do on our activities agenda. As we looked over the menu, I was a little amused when our choices to start with were either soup, or small salad, or tomato juice. Tomato juice???? M. was as happy as I have ever seen him when he ordered the dinner of roast pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings smothered in gravy (which we split – no way we could have eaten all of this food as two separate orders – in fact we didn’t finish what we were served with just one order – although M. tried his best). Yes, dessert was included and we could choose either a homemade Kolacky or Jello.  Jello????? I don’t think I have ever been in a restaurant that offered Jello as a dessert choice unless it was on the children’s menu or cafeteria style.  With a big smile, extremely full stomachs, and a vow to return again one day M and I drove back to our hotel.

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Over the next few days we were typical tourists seeing such things as Buckingham Fountain, Lake Michigan, and Pier Park and other popular places here and there both in downtown Chicago and the suburbs. We visited Millennium Park and took photos of our reflection by the Bean.  After lunch we walked through the park and stumbled upon some performers rehearsing for an evening concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion.

It was such a nice trip down memory lane for M.  Although some areas had changed, there was just enough remaining to rekindle fond memories of so long ago. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to actually see all of the places that mean so much to him.

Although I have lived as far west as Texas and as far north as Connecticut I was actually born and raised only a little over an hour from where I currently live. I haven’t been back in several years and hear that area is growing and changing like crazy. I am lonely for it and will return very soon.

How about you? Have you been back to your home town lately?