#390: Sweet Home

October 24th, 2014

“Rockford, Ill.—so named because it was founded at the site of a ford across the Rock River—is a pleasant, tree-smothered city 90 miles northwest of Chicago.”
Life Magazine, 1949

 

“A hardscrabble town in the middle of America, the place is not much more than an intersection of interstates and railway lines…”
Rolling Stone, 2008

 

I went home on Thursday.

I got the car share car, drove up I-90 through city to suburb to farmland to smaller city. I was running late, so had to go straight to the church rather than pick up my mother and aunt as I had promised.

We wore black, as is appropriate.

As I puttered through the construction on 90, my mother tried to give me directions over the phone. It was a listing of forgotten places that made me realize how alien my hometown had become.

“Do you know where Highcrest is?”

“No.”

“OK, do you know where Edgebrook Shopping Center is?”

“No.”

“Do you remember where Wonderland Books used to be?”

“No.”

She eventually texted me the address and I called my dad for street-based directions. I steered the car toward this pleasant, hardscrabble, tree-smothered town to see off a good man I’ll miss.

 

“Parking meters line the streets of the shopping district. A fleet of cabs lines up at the station to meet the seven daily passenger trains. On Saturdays farmers pour in from the surrounding county to shop while their children go to the movies or roller-skate at a rink across the street from C.I.O. headquarters.”
– Life Magazine, 1949

 

“Finding a meaningful target to blow up in Rockford isn’t easy.”
– Rolling Stone, 2008

 

This is a Chicago story.

It might not seem like a Chicago story because it’s nearly 100 miles away. It might not seem like a Chicago story because after the phrase “car share car,” almost none of this took place in the city.

It’s a Chicago story because it’s a story about home.

 

“… furniture industry…”
“… American Dream…”
“… as nearly typical of the U.S. as any city can be.”
– Life Magazine, 1949

 

“… backwaters…”
“… sad-sack…”
“… the lone claim to fame of being the hometown of Cheap Trick.”
– Rolling Stone, 2008

 

That Rolling Stone guy is a prick.

I remembered Hillcrest, Edgebrook and Wonderland Books once I got there. I drove past places I kissed girls, goofed with friends, had cars break down on me. The past swept over me once I was back in the sights and sounds and pleasant tree-smotheredness.

Then I went back to Chicago, to friends and loved ones and places just as ripe with memory.

When I was in each city, I missed the other.

I went home on Thursday. I went home twice.

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