Dateline: Richmond, Indiana
Today my travels have taken me across the Midwest, from Madison, Wisconsin to my day's final destination on the near east side of Columbus, Ohio, where I plan to spend a day of R&R visiting with my sister and her family. It will give me an opportunity to take a breather for a day before I drive the last leg of my trip home to Maryland.
This morning, before departing Madison where I spent the night, I drove around the city and Maple Bluff, the forested enclave on the western shore of Lake Mendota which I called home in the mid-1960s. I drove by our old house on Harbort Drive, on the edge of Burrows Park in the Fuller Woods neighborhood of Maple Bluff. Nearby is Tenney Park where I ice-skated on the lagoon during the winter (there is still some thin ice on it today) and where I fished on the nearby breakwater and at the locks serving the canal that allows boats to transit from Mendota to Lake Monona. I retraced the the streets I covered on my bicycle when I delivered The Capital Times, and I passed by the houses where my friends use to live and the local country club where I caddied and shagged golf balls one summer. It all looks the same.
I stopped and walked around the nearby junior high school where I completed my freshman year of high school (9th grade was still considered middle school back then). Originally a joint elementary school/junior high school named after Roger Sherman, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the latter retains its original name while the elementary school is now known as the Malcolm Shabazz City High School, in honor of the man we have come to know as Malcolm X and created as "a harassment-free/anti discriminatory learning environment where all people, regardless of previous academic performance, family background, social-economic status, beliefs, abilities, appearance, race, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation are respected." I was attending this school when Malcolm was assassinated in February 1965. Time changes things.
I stood on the athletic field where I ran cross-country back then, and where I watched Siri, my first real girlfriend, captain the cheerleading squad. Last night I learned that Siri passed away in the summer of 2010 at age 59. I knew her a long time ago, but I guess you never forget your first love. While in Madison I also made a meager attempt to determine whether other old friends were in the area. I only found one - my best friend during 9th grade. Ike and I rode our bikes together and hung out at the lake when the weather was nice. He also caddied with me that one summer. After I moved away we lost touch with one another, but I later learned that he had dropped out of school a year after I left, and a few years later ended up on the FBI's list of most wanted fugitives after he and his brother blew up a building on the University of Wisconsin campus in 1970. He was on the lam for several years until he was apprehended in Toronto and extradited back to the United States where he served several years in federal prison. Released, he returned home to Madison where he drove a taxi and owned a delicatessen near campus. He died of lung cancer a couple months before Siri passed away in the summer of 2010.
Leaving Madison, I drove east toward Milwaukee, jumping off the interstate at Lake Mills to make a quick swing past the school where I attended kindergarten and first grade, as well as the hulking Queen Anne-style apartment house on Mulberry Street, and the smaller duplex on Milton Street, where we lived in the late 1950s. They are exactly as I remember them and a flood of memories came back to me.
I also drove through the many familiar haunts along the western edge of Milwaukee, which I considered my home base when I was attending college in Florida. My family moved to this area right after I graduated from high school, and this is where I returned during the holidays and on summer breaks. I passed by our house in Brookfield, and walked through the old nearby cemetery where many of the original settlers to this area - mostly Irish immigrant farmers from County Sligo, are buried. It was during a walk in this cemetery in the spring of 1973 that I asked Sally Ann to marry me. How romantic is that?
Turning south at Milwaukee, I drove down to Chicago on a route I could almost drive blind-folded back in the early 1970s when I often made the trek south to visit high school friends. I swung through suburban Park Ridge, where I graduated from Maine Township High School in 1969 (check out my posting from October 2009 where I discuss my return for my 40th high school reunion: http://www.lookingtowardportugal.blogspot.com/2009/10/you-can-go-home-again-sort-of.html ). I also passed through the neighborhood off Division Street at Humboldt Park, on the near North Side, and the West Englewood section on the city's South Side (not far from President Obama's old neighborhood) where my parents lived when I was just a small tyke. I don't get back to Chicago nearly enough. It really is a wonderful city and I am proud to call it my hometown. I have lived many places, but Chicago is where I come from.
And now I have driven across Indiana to Richmond, hard on the border with Ohio. My family lived here for a year when I was in high school and before we returned to the Chicago area. It was just a short blip on the radar screen of my personal history, but I have fond memories of the time I spent here and the people I came to know. So I have taken a short detour to look at our old house and the my high school. The town has not really changed all that much and I take some comfort in this.
I still have roughly one hundred miles to go before I reach my sister's place outside of Columbus. The sun is setting over the route I have traveled and the many places I have visited today . . . the many places I have called home over the years. I have miles to go before I sleep and I guess it is time to hit the road.