Today, I drove into the city of Chicago. I had to attend a wake. The funeral parlor wasn't very far from my old neighborhood. I hadn't been to the old house I grew up in, since I helped my mom move out of there twelve-years ago. She was too old to keep up with it anymore.
Our home was beautiful back in the 60's. We owned a California style, yellow brick bungalow. It was typical of many of the old Chicago homes built in the 40's and 50's. My mom and dad purchased it for $17,000 back in 1955. It amazes me when I think of this low figure. A person can't buy a decent car for this kind of money these days.
My mom and dad always took great care of our house. We had beautiful maple trees out on the front lawn. My brother planted them. I helped with the weeding and gardening. My brother and I also painted the gutters and windows every couple of years. My mom planted beautiful flowers in the yard, and I will never forget her lovely peony bushes, which blossomed every year with the most beautiful, pink fragrant flowers. My dad bought lovely awnings to grace the windows of the house, and after a number of years, we bought a nice chain link fence for the back yard.
My mom always kept the windows washed, and her linoleum floor in the kitchen was always freshly scrubbed and waxed. Our home was spotless, inside and out. We might have been working class people, but we took great pride in the ownership of our home.
As I drove my car down Kedzie Avenue and went west on 72nd Street, my heart sank. My beautiful neighborhood looked like a slum. Garbage was strewn everywhere. Old junk cars sat abandoned all over the streets. In the old days, these same streets had shiny, beautiful cars parked in front of manicured lawns. A run down, beater of a truck with a flat tire sat in front of our house, where Dad used to park his brand new '58 Pontiac. Our house looked dirty and disheveled. The maple trees had been cut down. Nothing but the stumps remained. The once beautiful awnings hung from the windows, broken and blowing in the wind with gaping holes in them. There was no beautiful lawn or garden anymore. Just scads of weeds and dirt. There were junk cars in the back yard, and our beautiful chain link fence was rusted and leaning over on the sidewalk.
Groups of young thugs roamed up and down my street. They glared at me. I suppose they knew I was an outsider. I felt unsafe in what used to be my old neighborhood. I felt like crying. The only thing that looked the same to me was the Nabisco cookie factory. The smells coming from their ovens were still wonderful. The factory never changed. It was always well-maintained. The only difference i could see was that management added barbed wire to the tops of the high fences. I also noticed that they had a couple of security patrol cars parked in their lot. They never need these new additions when I was a kid living in this "hood".
I couldn't wait to drive away. I brought my camera with me, but my heart wasn't into snapping a picture. I guess I wanted to keep my old memories alive. I'll never go back there again.