Tonight on Facebook, I found a group – one of those “just for fun, remember growing up here” groups for my hometown. I started looking through it and had to laugh at all the memories that suddenly came flooding back…
I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. A South Side ‘burb that bordered Chicago itself. When I went to college, I learned that saying “I’m from the South Side of Chicago” made people ask “Wow, was it really rough?” I’d then have to explain that I really meant my very white bread suburbia town. The first time Josh came to visit there, he joked that Wally and the Beaver should be coming down the street, it was that suburban to him.
It was a larger town – 150,000 or so people – but it had a smaller town feel in a way (though now that I actually live in a very small town, I can laugh at that.) We lived by the library and fire station and commuter train stop and Dove’s ice cream parlor. 95th Street (the four lane highway through town) was full of what we now call “mom and pop” stores. Clothing shops, the pet shop, the music store, office supplies, ice cream parlors and pizza places. Good pizza. And good ice cream.
I watched things change a little as I grew up. The pet shop moved a block or so down the street. They tore down the Coral Theater. Dove’s closed. White Castle’s got a makeover. They finally built something on the corner of 95th and Cicero in the lot that had been empty for years, after fire took out a couple of stores. But so much more stayed the same.
Then I went to college out-of-state. Changes started to creep in. A strip mall went in near the train station, where a bar and a real estate company had been. No one really missed the bar. Then I got married and moved to yet another state. I’d go back for visits and notice that they tore down another set of buildings for a TGI Fridays. An old record shop and house were now gone. Plus, in the neighborhood, small little post-WWII houses were getting torn down and condos were being built. Where there was a little home was now a three flat, modern and convenient to the train station.
My mother moved away from there several years ago, leaving me no real reason to go back to visit. Last year, we went back there for my grandmother’s funeral and driving through the town, I realized it was no longer the place I grew up in. It seemed like a lot of its character had been taken away, torn down to put up new strip malls and chain restaurants.
Maybe it’s just part of growing up and going away. Or maybe it’s that I can be a highly sentimental person. But tonight, reading all those posts about “Do you remember…?” made me remember things I’d forgotten about. A time that no longer is, in a place that’s no longer the same. But I can still see it all in memory.