Saturday, March 6, 2010

What a difference a day makes . . .

Today was one of those perfect glimpses of early spring: Bright sunshine, impossibly warm, everyone dressed in shirtsleeves and unseasonable cheer. Kids roller skating, adults cleaning debris from their yards, cyclists taking to the roads. There was even a Cubs game on tv.

In honor of this perfect day, I decided to reacquaint myself with an old crush: My neighborhood.

Sure, sure, I'm fond of the place. I guess that's no secret. But it's been a while since I've had that punch-drunk feeling of affection, and I'll admit to recent doubts here and there, wondering if the romance is dead. Maybe it's better for us to go our separate ways before the acrimony sets in. Could it be time for an amicable parting?

But today, a simple walk to the grocery store reminded me of the difference between love and infatuation: a difference you feel like a blow to the gut.

I want to thank my neighborhood for unfolding so generously on a simple two-block walk. Thanks to Erica for taking sweet pooch Isa on a roundabout route so we could chat for a few minutes. And to Willie for leaving the store just as I was arriving, risking melting ice cream and warming milk to properly catch up.

To Jeff, my friend from the fancy wine shop, for the unexpected bump-in near the meat aisle, where he confessed his shared love of my cherished Tony's Certisaver and bought a $3.50 shiraz after seeing three bottles in my cart.

To the guy in the middle of busy Fullerton Avenue, holding a sign pointing to the nearby tire shop that advertised "Rims . . . Cheap!" for saying "Isn't it a beautiful day?" seconds before I was about to curse him for blocking my path.

To Mildred, for remembering the last time we talked that John and I were headed to Wisconsin for New Year's, then telling me about recovering her old journals from decades of Scandinavian travel and reliving those vacations by reading them again.

To Ben and Perla, for buying the house nobody wanted, freeing a woman about to lose it to foreclosure, and hanging out on the front porch with their adorable toddlers just 3 weeks after a rash of shootings.

And finally to Zach, home on freshman-year spring break from St. John's, for telling me he hadn't been sure in the beginning, but he's decided to stick it out in New York, and actually hopes to do a study-abroad program to Rome, Madrid, and Paris junior year. I don't think I could've been prouder of this first-in-his-family-to-attend-college than if he'd been my very own kid.

Kudos to you, neighborhood, for setting my heart back on the right path. Now if you can just make it stick . . .

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