How can buildings built by builders without plumb lines and levels stand? Why do some bridges only take me halfway across the duck pond? Whose joke is it to build a road that brings me only partially home? Why do beautiful bridges work moving faces from sadness to joy?
Fifty-four years old. Fifty-four years of being one of the lucky ones to call a particular address “Home.” Fifty-four years of memory…
I was born at 2560 Ridge Avenue in an Evanston Hospital delivery room. I have been told there was a snow event that day. A few days later I took my first car ride south down Ridge Avenue to an apartment building at the corner of Maple Avenue and Noyes Street – right next to the Noyes Station on Chicago’s ‘L’ (Elevated) Purple Line. I don’t remember my first home nor do I remember the sound of the L right outside my bedroom. Development psychologists would say that the sounds reverberating through my first home as L cars went by shaped my sense of wonder and the peace that I feel when I hear a train. (Just this past weekend I waited for sleep lying in my boyhood bed while visiting my brother and heard the sounds of a train whistle and the roll of its wheels in the distance. I fell immediately to sleep.)
A year later I moved (or, rather, was moved by my parents) to my next home on Michigan Avenue on the border of Evanston and Chicago. My first memory comes from my time at this apartment building. It is a very strong memory, probably because it involves four of my five senses: sight, sound, touch and smell. I sat on the stairs between two floors of the apartment building just high enough where I could see through the transom window over the front door of the apartment below. Out of the transom window came light from within, the sounds of a party (laughter and conversation), the smells of cooking (chicken?) while my butt was keenly aware that it was on the hard wood of the steps. I felt intense sadness at being outside while the party went on inside. I felt excluded and uninvited. The laughter that came out the transom seemed directed at me. I remember standing, placing a hand on the wooden railing as I turned to walk up the stairs. End of memory.
Just as trains bring me peace I have no doubt that my dis-ease and discomfort with parties starts with this memory. I am also aware that my strong sense of justice (and injustice), particularly when it comes to inclusion and exclusion, begins on those steps. Is it possible for a two-year-old to form at that early stage of being human a life’s call to purpose and mission where no human being should feel what I felt on those hard steps?
More home addresses followed. Buffalo Grove. Back to Evanston. Arthur, Illinois. Topeka, Kansas. Flossmoor, Illinois. Greencastle, Indiana. Logan Square, Chicago. Indianapolis. Martinsville, Indiana. Irvington, Indiana. Kalamazoo. Back to Irvington. Noblesville, Indiana.
So many memories. Beginning at home on Maple Avenue in Evanston. Continuing at my current home on Maple Avenue in Noblesville. More, I am sure, to come…