Monday, June 29, 2015

Home is Where the Heart is

As I sit here in my living room, I start to think about my time here in my amazing hometown of Chicago. I've spent my entire life, almost 21 years, here in the city with the occasional time spent in Athens, Ohio. It's hitting me that this is most likely my last summer here in this house, in this neighborhood, and in this city for many years.

I've never moved out of this house; I've only switched bedrooms. I've lived in this neighborhood my entire life. I've scraped my knees on every single square of cement, thrown racquet balls at countless porch steps, and shot many baskets in my alleyway. I've thrown the pigskin around my front lawn, played running bases between the same two trees, and played baseball at the same mock diamond for 21 years.

This reflection has made me realize that the saying "you are where you come from" is extremely valid. Yes, I know this refers to your family upbringing and cultural ties, but there are many other factors that shape who you are. The countless memories I have on this block is something I think about everytime I drive down the street or the alleyway.

Every time I walk by the tree with the now removed face, I think of the amount of times I slid into first base at the base of the tree. I think of the time J.J. ripped the face off the tree when I was 9. I think of the times Dean, Joey, Reilly, and I would sit in the grass, sharpening sticks and talking about God knows what.

Every time I look in my backyard, I think of the times that Billy, Tom, Charlie, and every guy I know would dunk me in that pool. I think of every cookout the Bells had over 20 years with the same people who became our family. I remember every July 4th where I would sit on my deck, looking at the countless fireworks lighting up the sky. I think of the countless splinters I had, the fireflies I would catch, the sparklers I would line our sidewalk, and the bottle rockets we lit off our deck.

Every time I walk up my steps, I look to my right and see my neighbor's front steps. All the times Dean, Reilly, Joey, Jake and I would grab a racquet ball and play pinners for hours. All the times we would make his sidewalk home plate and play quick games of baseball with that same racquet ball and whiffle bat. All the memories where we've slid into home with bruised knees and scraped legs.

Every time I take out the trash to my alley, I look at the asphalt and think of the hours I spent trying to perfect my jump shot. The hours I would beg Joey to teach me the spider or the hypnotizer. The one and only time I beat Reilly in a one-on-one game with a bank shot from the fence. The time where the guys and I would run down the alley after Jake was hit by a car while on a go-cart.

Every trip I make to Walgreens, I think about the hot summer days where we would trek to the store to grab Gatorade and gum. The days we would sit to wait for the bus to head to Six Corners. The times we would walk to Shabonna to play football in the field.

Every time I look at my house, I think of the days we would sit on my steps years later, catching up and reminiscing. I remember when I saw my mom bring my brother and sister home for the first time. I think of every piece of trash I threw in those bushes after coming home from grade school. I remember every front porch conversation I've had with my parents.

Every time I walk through my house, I remember the old, butt ugly yellow kitchen we used to have. I remember seeing my brother and sister take their first steps. I remember screaming for joy in my dining room when I was accepted into Fenwick, and four years later when I made my decision to go to Ohio.

Although I've gone through a lot of downfalls and negatives in my life, this neighborhood and the memories I have here are some of my greatest moments. This neighborhood is me in a nut shell: beat up but still strong, old but youthful, changing but classic. This place, this block, this house, and these people will always be in my heart, because it's my home. Thank you Chicago for the 20+ years of hospitality, memories, and friends you've given me. Hopefully, I'll be back one day as an older, wiser, and stronger individual, ready to come home for good.