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Eclecticisms: Documenting and My Walk Home

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Documenting and My Walk Home

I want to remember. Have you ever looked at an item in your home, or the home you grew up in (if you're lucky enough to be able to still visit that place) and thought, "I've never really noticed that before"? It's a similar sensation when you catch a scent or a song that bring you back to a place, only you're not quite sure where.

I once sat next to a woman on the train who smelled of something... a perfume, a lotion.... I have no idea what it was, and like a crazy person I sat sniffing in as deeply as I possibly could without being noticed, to try and place this scent. I debated on asking her what perfume she wore. I didn't. I'll always feel a bit bad about that.

Marge used to make clothes for my dolls, scarves, hat and mittens for my brothers and I, and all other kinds of goodies for us. They always had a warm, comforting scent. Her scent. When Marge died and we had to clean out her home, we came across piles and piles of notes, cards, diaries, journals. She kept everything, and dated it all. We have her window fan manual from the 80's (dated). We have her journals, telling us when she painted the upstairs metal bed frame (dated in the 1940's... and it still looks great). We have her bible with lots of notes; book marked and dog eared pages (dated). We have her diary in which she confided to herself that she was afraid and lonely. Dated.

If she hadn't left all this behind, so much of her past would either remain a mystery or be falsely assumed. She documented, and in a way, that will always keep her alive. She will always be a part of my life. Because of this, when I think of it, I know I need to document.

Unlike some, routine is something that comforts me. I enjoy spontaneity now and then, but when it comes down to it, I truly am a home body. I like knowing where I am and being close to the people I love.


My walk home from the Metra is not one I normally enjoy, mainly because at that point of my day I just want to finally be home and in my pajamas (which I practically live in, if I'm not out and about). Today, I seemed to have a heightened sense of sight, sound and smell. Everything seemed to greet me as if saying, "You're almost there". Part of why I don't take chances in life or do things that I would love to (focus on my jewelry business, give 100% to my blog, find the means to travel, sit down and read some fucking non-fiction.... god I just can't focus on so much of it and I get so frustrated!) is because I don't have those senses of security to guide me along; To hug me along the way and remind me that I'm OK. It’s new territory.

My train ride home differs from day to day. Once I get to Ogilvie, the cars are often packed but sometimes, when you're lucky, there's quite a bit of room left. Everyone is different. Some people I recognize, but many I don't. I don't pay too much attention to those around me in situations like these. For all I know, I've sat next to the same person 75 times and will never recognize their face. Some are dressed nicely, some are casual, some are drinking beer, some are eating a snack, some are reading and some are on their fancy phones or laptops. When the squeak of the train and the pull on your body to your right signals you've arrived at your station, it's time to get off.


Most times, I'm greeted with the smell of steak. It reminds me of fancy parties at steak houses, or my Dad grilling. Good memories, but wouldn't ya know it... I'm a vegetarian. About half a block later and there they are... warm, homemade tortillas. There's nothing like the smell of a warm tortilla when you're starving (sometimes the case, not usually).


Now past the area with bars and restaurants, my commute seems extra cold this time of year. Traffic is blowing cold winds off the snow and slush lined streets and everyone is in a hurry. Much of the personality is lost. I pass a CPD (Chicago Park District) field house that Marge attended Grammar school at, before they built the neighborhood grammar school. She told me long ago that she remembers the day they collected their things and walked the 6 or so blocks to the new, much larger, building. It was an exciting day. This field house now hosts various activities and events; from what I gather they are all geared around children. I could Google it and find out, but I'd almost rather stay guessing. I took a class there as a child that taught you test taking skills. The classes were incredibly boring and I spent a lot of my time looking at the woman teaching it. She had a wooden arm with a metal hook on the end. I'd never before seen anything like that in person and I was entranced. I felt a strong pity for her. I'm sure she got along fine... I should have just concentrated on the lessons. (Ah- standardized tests. I am not a fan, but this isn't a rant so I'll leave it at that.)


After the field house is the corner where I often see a little old man who stands at roughly 5'2", smoking his cheap cigar before he goes home. (He also does this in the morning while waiting for his bus.) He is small in his dark trench coat and black shiny loafers, content looking, but he doesn't seem to want to speak to anyone. I wonder if he has anyone at home. Maybe his wife won't let him smoke in the house. Maybe she is long gone and he still smokes outside out of habit. Again, sometimes it's better to just hypothesize and move on.


Next, the corner store. Great deals on produce, but I hate walking past due to the smell of plastic bags and rotisserie chicken (again, vegetarian). It grosses me out so my pace generally quickens around this time. When I was a kid, that store had a water fountain at the back. Drinking from it absolutely made my day. If only drinking from a public water fountain still did it for me. It's probably healthier that isn't the case though.


Around the corner and I'm a couple houses down from Eddie. He is in his mid to late 40's and lives in a brown bungalow, renting the second floor with his brother. He told me his father lives in FL, but visited them for Thanksgiving. Eddie has some sort of mental handicap, though I'm not sure which it is. Interacting with him makes me feel whole. I can't really describe it, but he lacks the cynicism of people who don't have his "handicap". I genuinely surprised him when I started stopping to talk with him in the morning. He tells me about his dog, his favorite team The Cubs, airplanes and trains. He once told me, "I like you Valerie. Do you like me?" "Of course", I replied, "Of course I like you Eddie". When I see him now, I am greeted with a hug and it makes me day. Screw that.... it makes me week.

Now that it's cold out, I probably won't see Eddie for some time, as he only waits outside for his bus in the warm weather. I gave him my business card to give to his brother so we could work out a time we could walk our dogs together, but he never called. Eddie asked me once about it, but I don't have his brother's information. He probably isn't comfortable with it and in a way I don't blame him. I'm just sad that I won't see him for awhile.

Just past Eddie's home, across the street is a small curb that runs along the parking area for an apartment building that I used to walk along as a kid, pretending I was a tightrope walker. Just past, that are footprints embedded in the cement. I would put my feet in and follow them before I got to my curb when walking uptown to buy candy. I've done it once or twice as an adult, just to re-live it. After all, they won't be there forever.


The last block is filled with homes of neighbors that I could get into, but won't. (I just realized this sentence implies I could break into their houses. Not the case, but it’s funny enough to not bother revising.) I will say that many of them I've known since I was a child, many I reconnected with when I moved back as an adult, and many are total strangers to me. Still- there is a sense of community that I enjoy.

Once home, I get to see my dog Footloose and my cat BoJangles which ends my journey. Although I repeat this walk every day, it seemed more alive this evening (or maybe it was me that seemed more alive?) and I knew that it won't last forever. (Sometimes I have an 'Oh crap, I forgot it was garbage pickup day" before I go into the house. That's always... fun.)


If there's one thing Marge's death taught me, is the importance of writing it down. Thank you Marge, for that valuable lesson. I miss you each day.

*I'd love to hear other people's "documentations". What's some process you'd never know you missed? What plays an invisible role of who you are or where you came from?



At December 15, 2010 at 5:17 PM , Blogger Laurie Harrison said...

Following from Wyoming, USA
On the Global Hop!
Can you kindly give me a follow back? If you stop in, please just click like on FB. It's a pretty new page. Much obliged!
Are you participating in the Handmade With Love Winter Giveaway? I'm signed up. I'm fairly new blog so having heck finding sponsors though. Any ideas?

At December 15, 2010 at 8:48 PM , Blogger Simply Stacie said...

Thanks for joining the Global Blog Hop. I am your newest follower from Nova Scotia, Canada.

At December 16, 2010 at 3:32 AM , Blogger Amy Watson said...

I had to chuckle at smelling the lady on the bus...I once turned to a woman in an elevator and said, "you smell good, what are you wearing?" She looked at me like I was a crazy person and said, "soap." I've never asked anyone ever again!

I'm a new follower too!

At January 2, 2011 at 8:46 AM , Blogger Leslie said...

I really enjoyed this post (I've been slacking on reading but catching up today as I finally have a day off!). I've really been struggling with finding a New Years Resolution and have gone back and forth between focusing on writing more and over to other things. Reading this made me want to focus on my writing more - to focus on the little things that make us feel like we are alive and home (even if my home is in no way shape or form the place that I grew up...)

Thank you for sharing - I truly enjoyed every word of it.


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