The sweet sugariness of first love

Today was full of adventures. The good kind. It started with a plea sent to all Chicago friends and family from my Uncle Mike for a volunteer to take a trip down I55 to Palos Park to pick up his transcripts. After a IM planning session, I jumped in the car and made my way to the south side. Upon arriving at Moraine Valley CC, I received a police escort from Officer 111 to a “faculty only” parking spot next to Building “R” (#1 awesome event of the day),  and waddled inside to negotiate with some very stern administrators (sans photo ID. I know, brilliant). There, I successfully found the three ladies with whom I needed to speak to secure Mike’s transcript. After each one peered over her half-moon shaped glasses at me and inspected my Costco ID (the only photo ID I had with me – and it didn’t even have my correct name listed), they stamped the proper forms in triplicate and finally released the one page report. Though I would like to share the transcript, I will refrain. However, I should mention that Mike must have been focusing on something other than school during the fall of 1973. I also met a girl who after asking me what I was majoring in, told me: “you don’t look that old. Like you are in your 20s or something.”

Since I was already ¾ of the way to Orland Park, I spontaneously decided to take a trip further south to check out my grandparents’ former digs. A left onto La Grange Road, a right onto 144th Place and another left onto Beacon Avenue led me straight to the locale of some of my most favorite memories – 9827 West 145th Place. The mailboxes were still at the end of the driveway and across the street. The trees that cost the three Ho-Ho girls countless hours in raking were still standing and no doubt torturing another generation. And most exciting news: a “for sale” sign was posted in the front yard. (#2 Awesome event of the day)



Yes, for a half-second I contemplated buying it. My email interaction with Mr. Swingen went like this:

“Lee Lee Lee. It’s for sale”

Mr. Swirley’s response:
“Are you going to buy it? It could be our winter home in the south (side).”

So he was considering it. Or mocking me. To sate my curiosity, I looked it up on MLS  while idling on the curb like your friendly neighborhood stalker. And BAM! There is a virtual tour available (#2 Awesomeness continued) online. The Gs moved about 15 years ago, so I assumed major renovations had taken place. After flipping through the photos, I was oddly relieved that not much had changed. Hardwood floors were installed, built-in bookshelves removed and the kitchen remodeled – but the deck and walkway the G and Mr. D. built were still in place and the fireplace looks the same as it did in the 70s /80s when the girls posed for snapshots with their high school sweethearts.


I am working on Mrs. D to schedule a tour with me; She needs some more persuading. You can call me a nosy ninny, or freak. I just want to see if the Sugar Smacks are still in the lower left cabinet next to the fridge, great grandma’s ridged plates are in the cabinets and the smarmy-looking hand-carved sailor is still on the bookshelf. You know, normal stuff.
Since I am talking about the Gs, I thought I would share my two most favorite pictures of them. As Aunt Jo succinctly wrote last year, “Elaine was the best.” And, the G, well he is the G.
(Gram’s fave pic of the G, too)
To round out my trip to Orland Park, I decided to brave my fears and travel to the home of my first love. I continued down West 145th Place, made a quick left and there it was: 7-11. It was the first 7-11 I remember visiting and spent countless hours biking to and fro during the summers spent in IL. I parked and braced myself for the worst. Remodeling, no pina colada slurpee – sky is the limit in terms of what could go wrong. But as I entered, I realized all is right with the world. The friendly 7-11 cashier still working from an island in the center of the store, Slurpee machines to the left and magazines front and center, right where they should be (#3 Awesome event of the day). It has been 15 years since I have stepped foot inside this fine establishment and it’s like I never left.

With an absurdly large frosty beverage in hand (pina colada flavor, of course), I decided it was time to return to reality and headed home. After a quick drive-by of the old haunts (you know antique stores, G’s usual car wash, supper clubs – normal hang-outs for eight-year-olds), I got back onto LaGrange Road and battled the traffic heading north into the city. All the while I thought about how I might be able to use the money we are saving through this refinancing deal as a down payment – baby Swirley needs a yard and I miss gram’s peonies.