On staying put | Bleader

On staying put


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Dont leave home with or without it
  • emmamccleary
  • Don't leave home with or without it
I am an American, Chicago-born, as a famous writer once bellowed—and I've never strayed far from the city of my birth. Why move? It's a hassle.

In 58 years, these have been my addresses:

6025 S. Kilbourn
6145 W. 59th
721 University Pl., Evanston (college)
420 W. Melrose
6457 N. Bosworth
6330 N. Wayne
1800 Oakton, Evanston

Can you recall all of your addresses? If you can't, or if you've averaged more than two per decade, maybe it's time to start questioning your wanderlust.

My parents taught me the value of staying put. We didn't take a single vacation when I was growing up that required leaving the city. My parents said we couldn't afford the passports. I suspect they appreciated the great joys of not packing. We did shop at Evergreen Plaza in southern Illinois, at 95th and Western.

My father came here from Ukraine in 1949, having spent much of his 20s hiding in forests from the Germans and Russians. Maybe that's why, in Chicago, he favored the shelter of the basement and garage. My mother, born on the south side in Back of the Yards, just seemed to have an instinctive understanding of the great dangers (people) lurking outside.

In my mostly rooted youth, I did travel quite a bit within the confines of Chicago. My dad was a CTA mechanic, so he rode free on the trains and buses. He took my brother and me on el rides throughout the city—rides that sowed in me an interest in the city. That interest flowered and endured.

My writing probably suffers from my narrow acquaintance with the world. I've never been to Paris, didn't spend a semester in Chile, haven't visited Ghana.

But not roaming has its advantages, especially for a writer. I've gotten to know this city pretty well, and have built up a gang of sources. Life's unquestionably different in Paris, Chile, and Ghana, but people are people wherever you are. If your interest is the human condition, there are 2.7 million of them right here.