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Saturday, September 10, 2022

Northshore Notes: No Moor

I'm almost embarrassed to say what my primary takeaway is on Northshore Bureau Chief Caren Jeskey's lovely rumination on childhood and royalty. But a writer should be who he is, so here goes: There's a Sock Monkey Museum? Why was I not told? Until now of course. Enjoy.

By Caren Jeskey

     Long Grove Confectionery was the Disneyland of Lake County when we were kids. We’d pile into a wood paneled station wagon and take the very long (for little people) journey northwest of the city to a magical land of candy. Just beyond the fairytale forest — perhaps Deer Grove or Lions Woods — an idyllic town appeared to us in the windshield. Thousands of lights twinkled between the trees as the cozy skyline of Long Grove came into view.  
      My brother, sister and I jumped around, bursting with anticipation, from our unbuckled spots in the back, the way back, or the way-way-back. This was the '70s. As you well know, children were allowed to nestle between mom and dad in the front seat of a car, sit unbuckled anywhere, or even lay down in the back, seats folded down, on sleeping bags.
     The good old days! We were closer to death but it sure was fun.
     My father would drop us off to go park and then trek back alone — our quiet and steady hero (with my mom being more of a Wonder Woman type of hero, on top of the quiet, steady work she did for the family). We’d hop out of the car and stand before the confectionery, which was a perfect replica of a little red schoolhouse. We had arrived. We were royalty and nothing could stop us from getting the giant peanut butter cups and turtles that we’d later chomp down in record time.
     When Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor died at the age of 96 this week it was very sad to hear. I’m sorry for the loss to her family, and everyone else who loved her. Her death is also a mortality reminder for several people in my life. It was easy to immortalize such a powerful person.
     The awareness of memento mori was passed down to me, as a person with Irish Catholic Polish Lithuanian blue- and lower-collar roots, and a heavy dose of Jewish influence. It’s not bad to remember that we are all going to die. Everyone we love is going to die. And as a friend pointed out, everyone we don't like is going to die too. For me, remembering that simple fact can make vitriol towards others less appealing. It can steer us out of judgment and into living our own lives rather than getting lost in anger towards others.
     Memento mori is “God willing,” or “b’ezrat HaShem,” in Jewish and Hebrew tradition. It’s “today is a good day to die," a phrase credited to everyone from Hunkpapa Lakota leader Low Dog to a Methodist preacher named Wilbur Fisk in the 1800s, to a character in the movie Smoke Signals, and even to Klingons. It’s “In sha’Allah” in Arabic. “Lord willing and the crick don’t rise” poetically said by a southern redhead friend. “Deo volente” in Latin.
     Since mortality is inevitable for most of us — not sure about Elon yet, but time will tell — trying to live a good life is comforting. As a non believer in higher powers, my purpose is doing what I can to make the world a better place while I am here, and when I am not, in the form of good memories. Yes. Easier said than done, and an endless journey.
     Good health starts with a strong sense of oneself. Not a grandiose or insecure ego, but a healthy ego. Knowing what we can change and what we cannot change, and then taking reasonable steps to get the results we want while being able to accept disappointment as a part of life.
     I often speak about the past with nostalgia. It is not lost on me that there are countless reasons to be grateful that the days of yore are in the past. For us to bid them adieu.
     The idea of blue bloods is one such reason. There is no such thing as royal blood. Even their legacy is rife with every ailment and affliction known to the rest of us. They are just much, much richer.
     I cringed when I saw that Oprah and Harry had a show on AppleTV called The Me You Can’t See. I wrote it off as probable fluff. Then I decided to give it a watch, rather than being an uninformed critic. The first episode was done very well. Harry speaks of what it felt like to lose his mother, and how his very needs as a young child were ignored in the name of keeping up appearances at that time. It exhausted the little fellow. Harry, like many people, had give up his essence as a child to perform, in order to maintain his attachments to those he relied on. A recipe for disaster as far as human development goes.
     The term blue blood came from the idea that milky white people in Spain, whose veins show through their skin, are superior. Their blood must not get mucked up with the blood of darker skinned people such as the Moors. It’s time for this archaic false belief to be put to rest. I realize that it’s not at all that simple, and the monarchy has its place in the stability of the world; however, let’s revisit who gets revered and who gets trampled upon on this planet.
     To get through this thing called life, I often take day trips to fun places like Long Grove, still. Last Sunday was for Irish Fest. My family and I tapped along to Irish jigs, marveled at the strength of the young dancers, and enjoyed the bagpipe parade as musicians in full Irish regalia marched through the crowd. My niece and I found a stream with rocks to cross, and a patch of grass to run around on, then collapse and look for four leaf clovers.
     We popped into the Sock Monkey Museum. We ate on the patio of a restaurant perched on a lake. We had some simple fun, in the melee of this complicated week of 2022.


  1. Searching for a primary takeaway in this essay that touched upon so many topics was not easy.
    The message I got is that there is little or nothing we can do about the past, present, or future so let’s do what we can and enjoy what we can, while we can..

    1. Thanks for reading Les, and I’m glad you were able to pull a theme together. It always seems to go back to “enjoy life now” and if you can’t, practice being comfortable being uncomfortable until it passes with time and one’s own brand of self-care, introspection, and action.

    2. Anon comment was from me.

    3. Yes, it did touch on many topics. I haven't been to Long Grove in about 40 years. My first wife liked it...I just went along for the ride. All the way from Evanston. I remember it as being mostly a collection of antique shoppes and cutesy snack bars. Often, we'd just stop to get something to nosh on, and then continue to my wife's grandma's place in Woodstock.

      I was hoping that today's entry would be all about Caren's take on the Queen. I was only mildly disappointed. Her coronation in 1953 was the first international event to be broadcast on television. I remember watching it, the summer I turned six. The following summer, I asked my father why I couldn't see the "Cinderella coach" again. He explained that it doesn't happen every year...sometimes not even in a lifetime. He got to see it twice, and now I will, too. Hopefully.

      For a while, even though she was two decades older, I actually thought the Queen might just outlive me, and make past the century mark. Her own mother died just a few months short of 102. I think about death all the time now. Was this my last summer? Will I see another summer? How will it happen? Will it be quick? Will it hurt? What will hell be like? Is there even a hell? Am I in it right now?

      Or is death merely like an incandescent light burning out...followed by somebody having to pitch the now-useless bulb? I've held that belief about dying since my early teens. It's a far more comforting viewpoint than anything I was ever told in Hebrew school or synagogue.

  2. My favorite place in Long Grove is the covered bridge that keeps getting hit by all the oversized vehicles that ignore the signs that say there's just an 8 foot clearance.

    1. In our new society of out of control drivers and a new level of anxiety & unchecked anger I bet it’s worse now— though I didn’t see the bridge except from a distance. I’ll have to go back and see.

  3. Your reaction is great Neil. Simple pleasures!

  4. My parents moved to Long Grove in 1969 so I lived there from the age of 15 until I got married in 1980. It was a bustling, quaint little town--the Peppermint Stick was a great place for a lunch sandwich, Old Country Store which was kind of like a Sur la Table in the 1970's, Long Grove Tavern for a fun dinner (if I remember correctly that had special music on the weekends). I got married in the Long Grove Church that you get to via the covered bridge right out of town. The town is a shell of what it used to be--so many "for rent" signs in the store windows. I think many people come to see the covered bridge now just because it's been hit 30 times since 2020.


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