|Goodness, she's young. Also, a little cold.|
Tomorrow marks my 10th anniversary with Chicago. That's a long time, especially with my track record. (Don't be alarmed, Peej. I'm different now.)
What should've been a one-season stand with a city (I had my eye on you, Los Angeles, and you sure turned my head, NYC- but we weren't the ones for each other) turned into a full on crushfest of epic proportions, later mellowing into a comfortable, long-term love. The kind that feels like Saturday mornings in Fall, or a cozily faded hoodie. But one which can still pleasantly surprise you and make you wonder what else they've been keeping under wraps all these years.
Chicago, thank you for your system of streets on a grid. You can't possibly know what a mess I was before I met you. I mean, I moved here from Boston. Boston! Even for someone good with directions and/or the space/time continuum, Boston is tricky. But with you, I can count blocks in my head and know that I'm getting roughly towards where I ought to be. (As long as I know that the big ol' body of water is East. Always East. Never changes, not even that one time when I was sure it had.)
Thank you for Edgewater, where my first apartment was and I was able to have my own beach. Mine! (And the rest of the block's!) Yes, the water was freezing cold and the lifeguards weren't that interested in guarding my life...but it made me less homesick. (Because any lake big enough to have its own tides...well, that goes a long way for a girl used to the Atlantic.)
Thanks for the amazingness that is downtown Chicago during the holidays. The Christkindlmarket was what got me through my first job here. Which I will not name. (Because a bar and grille that requires 14 hours of work, face time with slimy staff and patrons, and a payout of thirty bucks a day doesn't deserve free advertising.) But walking through the Daley plaza (amidst glass icicles and a sea of mulled wine in boots) and elbowing my way down a lit-up Michigan Ave restored some of my good will toward [poorly tipping] men.
I'm grateful for Wrigleyville. Because everyone should live there at least once (if only to say to oneself- "Hmm, Sports. Yeah, I'm good.") Wrigleyville is like Chicago's Sorting Hat. And it eventually scurried me over to Roscoe Village, my neighborhood Happy Place. Chicago, thanks for Roscoe Village, with its outdoor eateries, street fests, and my old backyard with the strawberry patch.
A high-five for Chinatown and its availability of 4am fried rice in a pineapple. On that note, thank you for 1am char-cheddar dogs at The Wiener's Circle (and a healthy dose of verbal abuse from its staff) and midmorning tamales verdes from the gal with the rainbow umbrella.
Because of our love, Chicago, I was able to drive past Indiana cornfields and Wisconsin cheese castles, marveling at the beautiful foreignness of both.
Thanks for the families for whom I've nannied along the way, and the eleven children who've hung upside down at the playlots with me.
And thanking you for your theatre scene is a little like thanking my childhood home for having floors...but I'll thank you anyway. The ability to live and breathe and eat and drink shows (after I had tipped out, of course) cemented my decision to be an actor forever and ever (until I didn't want to anymore). The famous theaters. The accessible ones where a newcomer could actually work. The troupes that were started in someone's living room with a group of college friends. The ones who put up my first professionally produced plays as a playwright. And the one that brought me my husband.
Thank you, Chicago, for shoving P.J. right up against me. (And you'd tried for years; what with the job interviews at Fizz, the New Year's Eve we both had tickets to Gunther Murphy's, the seat next to me at the Kevin Spacey talkback- which P.J. had, at the last minute, given to a friend in his stead...)
Chicago, if you and I hadn't met, I'd never have started this gorgeous life with P.J. And we wouldn't have our two daughters. (Nor this ramshackle house, but on a sliding scale of cosmic importance...)
When you and I started our little fling, Chi-town, I forged friendships with a group of newcomers, all trying their hand at this theatre thing. They've since scattered to all points east and west (with the last pal trekking her way to the Pacific Northwest in short order) to become lawyers and teachers and medical professionals...and I've surprisingly become the last holdout. Me, the one you could've taken or left when we first locked eyes.
So thanks for changing with me from confused 22 year-old actress, nanny, and Northside renter to 32 year-old writer, wife, mother, and Northwestside homeowner. You're an incomparable town with attributes I haven't even begun to list (transit/ book fairs/ world class restaurants/ museums/ miles of parks and forest preserves/ the three ice cream men on my block alone) and I can't wait to see what else you've got up your big sleeves.