Thursday, September 27, 2012

From My Memoir: Journey To A Normal Life

Part I - Windy City

The Commute
It was always snowing or sleeting that first winter.  We waded across the back yard of our Brookfield dwelling each morning in snow up to our knees.  It seemed to take us forever to scrape ice from the windshields and sweep snow off the top and hood with a broom.  If we made it out of the alley without getting stuck in a snow bank, we bumped (so hard my teeth rattled!) on chained tires over ice-crusted streets and slipped and slid all the way to Congress Expressway.
The expressway was a nightmare; cars weaving from lane to lane, moving too fast for conditions, and every day—coming and going—we saw several wrecks (which just about scared me to death; I was certain we would be killed the first week!).  Helicopters whirred overhead, and we listened to them on the radio as they advised commuters to take a by-pass here or there to avoid a pile-up.
We exited onto Lower Wacker Drive which took us deep into the bowels of the city.  Eye-stinging gasoline fumes hung in the air, echoing sounds of car, bus and truck motors bounced off the walls, and strange, hopeless-looking people hovered in corners or lay sleeping on the edges of sidewalks (barely out of the way of traffic) or sat on their haunches ripping the last bits of chicken from bones from nearby garbage cans. 

Two people we saw regularly in that vast and dark place were a thin, haggard man in bib overalls who carried his Bible and preached hellfire and damnation, a rooster perched on his shoulder; the other, a tall, emaciated woman with a Dutch-boy haircut perched on a curb, chin resting on her bony knees, yelling, “I got bugs!" 

(Excerpt from my weekly letter to my family:  I've never seen anything like Wacker Drive!  There are very strange people down there!  It's almost spring, and I don't think it will EVER stop snowing here!  I bet the frogs are croaking at home.  Oh, how I wish I could be there to hear them.  I sure do miss everybody.)

Then there were pleasant parts of our commute.  Like the mouth-watering scent of fresh-baked bread wafting through the air as we drove past Dressel’s Bakery, the sight of the bright morning sun illuminating the Wrigley building, the Tribune tower and nearby buildings in all shapes and sizes as we crossed the bridge over the Chicago River, the commuters coming and going up on Lake Shore Drive where there was a long, glittering line of vehicles as far as one could see.  The force of the city seemed to swoop down like a whirlwind and suck me into its roaring chaos, sending electrifying energy coursing through my veins.  

At times like those, I embraced the Windy City with all my being and never wanted to leave.

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All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley