I grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago. The farthest south I was aware of until I was about 14 years old was Grand Avenue and that was “way far south, almost downtown!” There might as well have been a void south of downtown; somewhere I would never dream of venturing.
I was a Girl Scout early on. I transferred to a new school in the 4th grade and scouting was something that was offered at our parish. I loved our campouts; we would sell boxes and boxes of cookies so that I could go. As I got older, I sold the cookies so that I could go to residence camp in Wisconsin for 2-3 weeks during the summer. I applied for the “counselor in training” program at Camp Juniper Knoll the summer I turned 15. 4 weeks of life at camp, plus counselor privileges. This way, when I went away to college and needed a summer job, I could work at camp all summer. Excellent!
My neighborhood friends weren’t interested in going, but I was going anyway. There I was, dropped off on a Sunday afternoon in June, in the Adler Planetarium parking lot, to catch the bus to Elkhorn, WI. Whoopee, this was going to be a great summer! One of my favorite counselors was coming back and she was on our bus! She could play a mean guitar at our campfires and I loved the singing. Little did I know that her younger sister was on the bus that day too and that she would become one of my best friends.
Those of you, who know me, know I’m not afraid to talk to anyone, about anything. I struck up a conversation with my new friend during that bus ride. She was a little shy at first, but had a wicked sense of humor. I’m certain at the time she was being forced to go to camp with her sister. At the very least I am thinking that while going to camp sounded like a great idea at first, it was not so much when it was actually happening.
We had a blast during the time we were together at camp. One of the interesting things was that she lived in Alsip. Alsip? Where the heck was Alsip? So far south, I was sure it was another state. Me, I lived on the North Side. The scary North Side where people from the South Side rarely ventured. We weren’t even sure our parents would let us out to see each other. What were two new besties to do?
Talk on the phone. We called each other often and had lengthy conversations. We did travel to see each other; she was able to drive to pick me up at the train station. I think that first year we did that once or twice. We couldn’t wait until the next summer to go back to camp, freedom and escape from our boring, restricted lives at home. I remember talking to her on the phone the night before we were leaving for camp that next summer. I couldn’t wait to see her again.
We had a ball that second summer; we stuck together. Transportation after we got home wasn’t so problematic; she drove, I had friends who drove, our lives meshed, friends intermingled. The great divide between the North and South sides didn’t seem so far anymore. When there was a will, there was a way. I especially remember a couple of near death rides on the Dan Ryan in their yellow VW.
As the next few years went by we had so much fun. We got into a lot of trouble, but man, we had a ball. We spent time going to “The Point” down by the lake, hanging out with the neighborhood guys who had a fondness for somewhat fluffy girls, nursing our youthful hangovers at the beach, at the rocks the next day. Me and the South Side sisters, we had us a blast! I’m certain our parents braced themselves for my visits there or their visits here; never a dull moment. We fell in like and love with boys from each side of the tracks. We were girls just wanting to have fun. We had jobs, we had friends, we had a little money, we had a lot of nerve and we had each other.
We started to grow up. She went off to college after all; I got married and had a baby. Our lives started going in different directions, but we still kept in touch. More and more distance came between our phone calls and while we didn’t give up completely, years had gone by since we had seen each other. When we got to our late 20s and early 30s we reconnected a little more. She got married, started having kids, still living on the South Side; we visited a little more often. I think our friends and family were surprised at our sustainability.
We talked on the phone, catching up as often as we could. She had 4 boys, I had my son; we were working, managing the household, trying to calm our whirring brains. After talking on the phone for while we would both say that we would call more often, but really, who had the time?
We both had life changing events; I would go as far as to say that she had more than her share of life changing events. Things that scare the bejeezus out of you and you hope you can get past it with a little sanity. We talked to each other on the phone, cried, yelled, listened, consoled, counseled and laughed, especially laughed, about everything that we could. I started writing my blog. She would call after reading my post like she was reading my mind, she still does.
I just had lunch with her the other day. Her sister came along for the visit. We met about half way, but I have no fear making the cross to the South Side anymore. We talked for about 3-1/2 hours and we could have sat there longer and never run out of things to say. We are beautiful women who are starting to decide that maybe our time has come. Perhaps it’s time to take better care of ourselves and our psyche because it had been put on the back burner. Our visit was like sitting under a warm blanket, easy and comfortable. I promised myself that I would make time to spend time. Her strength and intelligence fuels mine and I’ll be forever grateful.
This blog posting is dedicated to you, my friend. My love is an anchor tied to you with a silver chain; long, unbreakable, but a little tarnished from years of wear. Here’s to our growing together on this lifelong journey. With love…