Sunday, January 22, 2012


There is a little township outside of Chicago called Bellwood. It seems small enough; But it was my whole world when I was little. We lived in a beautiful bungalow built by my great grandfather and my great uncles. They were new to America, coming in on a steamship from Germany. They passed through Ellis Island and boarded a train to Chicago. They were relatively wealthy when they arrived, and bought land when they got off the train. They named their township Bellwood.

They built the homes and they built our family. I could walk next door and visit my Aunt Annie. My cousins lived right down the street. My cousin, Lloyd lived a block away. He died in a car accident when he was a teenager. Aunt Lettie lived a few more blocks down. She had a son who had trouble with depression. Aunt Lettie was very emotional and would walk everywhere ... but her home was right on the corner of North Avenue and 26th, so she was close to everything anyway. Mrs. Owl lived a couple doors down. She collected candy in closed glass jars. My grandmother and I went to visit her once. One of the jars fell when she offered me some candy beads. The little beads tumbled all across the floor. They sparkled as they bounced and rolled over the wood and carpet.

There was a little boy, Danny who lived next door. He was always causing trouble and eventually, I wasn't to play with him anymore. I could walk down the street and turn the corner and not feel lost. I was only four years old. I remember doing just that one late afternoon. I turned the corner and saw my dad in the butcher shop buying dinner. I wasn't supposed to be out of the back yard and knew I had better get back home before he rounded the corner or I was really in for it. Ultimately, my conscience got the best of me and I confessed to my unsuspecting parents during dinner. Only after I became a mother myself could I appreciate the full impact of that moment ... of retroactive panic.

Yet at the time, I was secretly proud that I raced home and actually beat my dad to the front door. I could have gotten away with it ... but I had a conscience. Damn. Stupid.

Damn stupid. (interjected retroactive humor)

There was a beautiful porch in the front, one of those swinging benches off on the side. A gigantic old elm tree stood in the front yard. The wind would whisper through it's branches and make music to my ears. One evening, a really bad storm eventually brought the old veteran down - with a bold of lighting, it lit ablaze. It was a huge event in my little four year old perspective. A sight I'll never forget.

The dining room had a huge bay window I could sit in the sun and take in the world. Grandma had a flower garden under the window full of the most beautiful flowers with the most amazing intense colors. The rest of the yard was deep green grass. Dad used to get the lawn mower out and cut it every weekend. There was an old spinning wheel in the basement my great grandma Sophia brought from the old country. It sat down there, collecting dust, sad and lonely for more productive days gone by.

I began kindergarten while we lived there. I remember getting up early mornings and bundling up in layers to walk down the street with my older cousins to get to school. I remember snack time and donuts and milk.

In the evening, you could hear the sound of the train as it passed through, and gave that high melancholic goodbye.

I miss Bellwood, Illinois a lot. I miss it because it was home. I can never go home again

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