Monday, October 3, 2016

Goodbye, Rogers Park.

I look out the window, at the slowly darkening sky, and think…Is the sky really the same everywhere? I feel like the sky has a very Chicago quality to it just about now..

I look at the darkening Chicago sky, and think about the skies and clouds of my childhood. The skies and sunsets of Istanbul were somehow never very dramatic, pretty gray in fall and winter, somber, quiet. As if the sky was afraid of competing with the beauty of the city.

The Chicago sky seems to put on a show with every sunrise and every sunset. I look at the formations of clouds, the unique ways in which they arrange themselves, the way they seem to blush with the sunset.

This was my last summer in Rogers Park. After 6 years, we are getting ready to pack and leave for the suburbs. Leaving the home that saw the births of our two children, one graduation, countless meals, cups of tea, cups of coffee, birthday parties, laughter echoing on the walls, tears, shouts, whispers, murmurs, lullabies, songs…

As all lasts go, the whole summer was tinged with nostalgia. I roamed the streets of Rogers Park with a growing melancholy inside me, visiting all the places that defined the last 6 years for me.

Rogers Park is, for me:

Loyola’s Cudahy Library, where I wrote my dissertation while sipping black, bitter coffee and looking out at the expanse of Lake Michigan and chewing on ends of pencils.

The Growling Rabbit, where I read and wrote, and people-watched while the residents of nearby nursing homes came in for a hot drink on chilly days, and warmed themselves with each other’s presence, conversation and laughter.

The Starbucks at Sheridan and Columbia, where I sat outside on the patio and watched life go by on Sheridan Road, with all the noise and bustling of a toddler running at full speed.

The Red Line station, elevated from the street and, like all Chicago EL stops, floating above the city in a sort of suspended reality, smelling of burnt metal and warm asphalt.

The Waterfront Café, where I spent countless evenings with friends, feeling my soul expanding with the lake, eating, drinking, laughing.

Loyola Park, where my children took many, many naps in their strollers while I walked by the murals on the wall, taking in deep gulps of air carrying smells of the lake, algae, and warm sand.

Lazarus Park, where I spent many hours reading on a bench while my daughter played. Where the tiny handprint of her 2 year-old self still stays, painted on a wall with those of other children.

Rogers Park is its people, hailing from so many different backgrounds, points of origin, ethnicities, languages, religions, traditions…Yet converging as one at the crossroads that all somehow end at the lake.

Rogers Park is my old, sturdy Pentax K1000 analog camera. With which I took countless black and white snapshots of the beaches, the shore, the people, the pets, the seagulls, the skies.. It is the magic of photography in a vibrant and extremely urban space.

It is Armadillo’s Pillow, the magical bookstore that smells like old pages, vanilla, incense, old rugs and dark red velvet sofas. The little heaven that was a refuge, a secret hiding place and a literary wonderland for me and my daughter on so many rainy, windy days. The bookstore that seemed to be larger than it looked from the outside, with many nooks and crannies to be discovered. The space so full of positive energy that I felt like it was therapeutic for me, and nothing bad could ever happen to me there, even on the darkest days.

Most of all, Rogers Park for me is the little secluded beach at the end of our street, and Pratt Pier. Where I went for long walks on dreary days, where I watched seagulls perch on the wet sand and watch me with their careful eyes. Where I took long walks while the waves lapped at my feet on long, warm summer afternoons.. Where I stood at the end of the pier by the old, rusty skeleton of a lighthouse and looked out at the skyline of the city in the distance. The city that has come to mean so much for me, that has defined one third of my life, that has changed my life and adopted me as its daughter and has embraced me, consoled me, enraged me, hugged me, pulled me in and pushed me away.

The surface of the lake extends away in ripples and waves. I look at the Chicago skyline, and I look back at Rogers Park, where I left so many different parts of my soul. As I prepare to take a new step, move in a new direction, start a new adventure, I take a breath. No matter where I go, I am the daughter of the city. I am a child of Rogers Park.

Esra, October 3, 2016