Falling in love with Chicago

From the minute we stepped outside O’hare airport into the cold, grey, damp, exhaust fume-ridden city of Chicago, I cried for beautiful clean New Zealand. I couldn’t breathe the air. I couldn’t stand the cold. I hated the ugliness of postage stamp lawns. I was a thoroughly miserable kid and teenager. To calm myself to sleep, I would replay in my mind walking around the town of Nelson, desperately trying to beam my way back. I waited and waited for the opportunity to leave.

I survived the school system, and entry-level jobs starting at 14. I bought my first car in high school and paid for it with the quarter tips I dumped out of my pockets after work which came after school.

That used car was my first glimmer of hope and freedom. Then I got married and had children. It was not easy. But I persevered, always dreaming of a future away from Chicago.

Time passes, and In hindsight, I seem to reinvent myself every decade. The decade entering into my 30’s I announced my decision to go to design school. Not just a few classes at the local college. But downtown Chicago, to one of the most prestigious design schools in the country.

Before I began that undertaking, I took a trip to Paris. Alone.

Upon coming back to Chicago, the real Chicago, not suburban Chicago, but downtown, cultural Chicago, I fell in love with the city. It was a microcosmic Paris.

My birth in Budapest must have imprinted this love of city, which had lain dormant for thirty years, and now it exploded forth and I could not explore fast enough. Architecture, opera, theatre, restaurants, shops, everything….

Water Tower Place is where I would love to live in Chicago today, smack dab in the middle of the area I spent four years and countless footsteps discovering.

But I can’t. I love where I am in Florida. It’s bright, clean, and beautiful, and my family is here. I will always miss the incredible concentration of culture in Chicago. A big chunk of my history and education will always be part of the Loop.

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