Saturday, April 2, 2022

Wilmette Notes: Life Passing By

"Chicago Taking a Beating" by Roger Brown.

    Our past follows us wherever we go like a pull-toy duck. North Shore Bureau Chief Caren Jeskey's has been quacking particularly loudly of late, as she relates in her Saturday report:

By Caren Jeskey

   Living in a tiny rental home in Wilmette means that I am up against memories of childhood that I haven’t had in decades. It’s as though I’m watching my life pass by slowly through a train window, vignettes flickering past while I try to ponder them. I’m seeing myself probably too clearly now in this COVID navel gazing solitude complicating my return home. 
    It was nice to be in Texas for those 7 years, where there was no chance of feeling that I had stepped into a time machine filled with youthful (well, ok, some not so youthful) mistakes.
     Now, in the past few weeks, four people I know have all gotten BA.2. So for now, I'm back only dining in pods at Napolita in Wilmette or Fiya in Andersonville, or in dining rooms where vaccination cards are still required like Jerry's Sandwiches in Lincoln Square. As if life weren't strange enough, I'm eating in plastic bubbles.       
     I started studying flute at the Music Center of the North Shore, a mere mile and a half from my current home, when I was in 3rd grade or so. Once a week, a parent and I would ride in a station wagon from Chicago to the school on Green Bay Road so I could have a lesson. My mother became intrigued by the charming school also housed on the same plot of land, North Shore Country Day. By the time I’d graduated from a Chicago public grammar school, my folks had me enrolled at North Shore Country Day for high school. I felt heartbroken and a little scared to be stepping into freshman year with only 47 other students, far from my grammar school buddies. Going to North Shore turned out to be a great gift, as far as education and culture. It’s funny that it took me this long to live close enough to walk to school.
     I thought I was much bigger than I am. Tucked away in the comfort and safety of one of the safest places to live in Illinois, and probably one of the safest places in the country, I see that I’m simply the same person I have always been, and things are much more simple than I had figured. I thought life was about adventure and fun, collecting experiences. Staying on the move. I didn’t realize that all I need to feel alive is having healthy plants to tend, a satisfying career, and peaceful relationships with my family and friends.
     I don’t have much clutter anymore, since I’ve worked for the past few years to pare down. Somehow I’ve managed to hold onto a small carry-on sized suitcase full of letters, cards, and moments that date back to the early 70’s.
     Looking back at some of them this week, I can see things even more clearly. Egad. It’s right there in ink. I’ve always been the kind of person to value kindness, but I’ve also been too hungry for excitement. Rather than settling in with stable, life-long friends, I was drawn to drama. Intrigue. I took a lot of the good ones for granted over the years. I'm grateful to have a small number of true friends, most of whom I met about twenty years ago, but I did not nurture my high school connections very well. Perhaps now is the time.
     When I was lucky enough to be attending a gem of finer education, I kept my eye out for things I should have probably shied away from. Became close friends with a transfer student who stole my father’s phone card number from me and had charged up hundreds of dollars before he discovered what was happening. She later got involved in drugs and sadly, a much darker side of living. Fortunately, we reconnected several years back and she is doing quite well.
     At school, I snuck clove cigarettes in the gymnasium bathroom when no one was supposed to be in the building, which were given to me by a big stoner in our class. She also once got me super high— well OK, it was my choice to say yes— on a drive during a lunch break. As a novice, my tolerance was low and I was baked. I passed out on the Senior Homeroom couch and recall the face of a kind jock looking down at me, concerned, as I slept it off. I remember how scared he looked as he grappled with getting adult help, or leaving me be, as I had asked.
     I feel strangely young and vulnerable these days as I look back at my journey. As a good friend said, the battle is done and the war has been won.


  1. Your last 2 sentences contradict each other, perhaps ironically. Everything you've written here, including the penultimate sentence as well as all your contributions to this blog Saturday after Saturday, is proof that you have not opted out of the battle, you have not retired to the sidelines to self-righteously scorn those foolish enough to care -- the war is far from over, much less won. What may be true for your "good friend" could not be farther from the truth for you, I would bet my last dollar on it.


  2. My experience has been quite the opposite. I've been gradually losing contact with friends I made over forty years ago. True, we all live in different parts of the country but the frequency of our contacts has slowly diminished over the years and now, all I have is memories of our friendships.
    Some may be due to conversations that are simply "catching up". I guess that gets old. I don't do Facebook so I don't see photos of their food or pets.
    Others drop off most likely because we view things differently. That never kept us apart in the past but things are different now.

    1. Well, I've lost some good friends too- two of my best in the past 2 years. I feel lucky that I have a few tried & true left, and I am excited to see how rekindling with HS pals will feel. In fact, I was invited to dinner with one of them tomorrow. Life is unpredictable, that's for sure.

  3. Sorry to hear your life is still being affected by the Plague, Caren. Here in Northeast Ohio, masks are going away and dining places are almost back to what they once were. Of course, being retired and on fixed incomes, our dining experiences are limited to neighborhood joints and Lenten fish fries at trendy eateries or foodie spots for the likes of us. It's not about the cost. Just not our style.

    For seventysomethings, stamina and energy diminish, and adventures are harder to come by, unless you count all the local day trips and outings as adventures, If so, we still have plenty of them, but mostly in the warmer months. Each winter means more and more staying at home. I don't deal well with cold weather anymore, and I no longer even want to walk in the snow, let alone drive in it. So we hibernate for half the year.

    Our brown thumbs killed off our plants long ago, our checkered careers are finally ancient history, and family ties have withered away to few and none. Old age, death, and just the passing of time will do that. Even siblings eventually drift apart. I haven't seen my only sister in years, nor have I talked to her in months. Today's her birthday, so I'll finally have an excuse to call.

    We are what we are, geezers in a cluttered bungalow, with too many books and too many hoarded treasures, in what has become a museum of bygone popular culture. Without kids or grandkids, or relatives who treasure the trinkets of the past, most of it may end up in a landfill, sooner than we would probably like.

    Consider yourself lucky to have even a small number of true friends, Caren. We're down to a number that's less than the fingers on one hand. Political differences have led to estrangements and alienations of affection. Sadly, the couple we've been closest to for the last three decades have retreated into the bottle and the pipe, and it is futile to try to coax them out of the fog. But they're all we have left, and we're lucky to see them a few times a year--when we get to watch them get hammered and pass out.

    The battle is done, and the war has been lost. I still have all my vivid memories (for now), and a million yarns and jokes, for anyone who still wants to hear them. Some are bittersweet, some are amusing. Some, not so amusing. It would be nice to have a few sane and sober friends to swap tall stories with, but, is what it is. Nobody plans for ties to fray or for connections to be lost. It just...happens. And if it doesn't, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.

    1. "I still have all my vivid memories (for now), and a million yarns and jokes, for anyone who still wants to hear them." Any frequent reader of the EGD comment threads can vouch for that, Grizz! Seems to me that as astute as you are and as long as you can share your thoughts as effectively as you do, the war has not really been lost.

      However, even while vaccination cards are not needed to dine in any Cleveland restaurants, I'm surprised that a baptismal certificate is not required to avail yourself of the Lenten fish fries. ; )

  4. Thanks for sharing Grizz, and I echo Jaksash in saying that your yarns and jokes are more than welcome here.

  5. Thanks muchly. And the churches don't care about your creed or faith, as long as your cash is readily available or your credit card is good. During fish-fry season, the greenback dollar speaks a universal language, and it is almighty and shall prevail.


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