Going Home After Forty Years

Forty years ago, I lived in Winfield, IL from the age of five to six, the years 1967 to 1969.  We moved from Long Island, NY.  There were six of us, my mom and dad, myself and three brothers.

My dad commuted into Chicago to work for Munich Reinsurance Company.  Those two years held some of the fondest memories of my entire childhood.  I remembered lots of playing and parties and bonfires and barbeques.  Winfield is where I attended kindergarten and learned to ride a two-wheeler.  It is where I watched the men land on the moon and experienced my first tornado.   I have very fond memories of the Winfield Good Ole Days.  This is a celebration in which the entire town participates, dressing up in colonial clothes.  Kids were riding in mini covered wagons being pulled by their dogs.  My mom made the two us matching dresses and bonnets.  My dad sang in the barbershop quartet.

It was a sad day in 1969 when my parents told us we were moving.  We headed back east, settling in New Jersey.  While I had a wonderful childhood in Mendham, New Jersey, it never matched up to the magic of the Midwest.

Over the years I shared my wonderful experience of Winfield to anyone who was from the Midwest.  Winfield grew to mythic proportions in my memories.  It was a wonderful place to grow up (if only for two years of my childhood).  When I met my future husband who happened to be from Chicago, I never dreamed I end up in the Midwest again.

I moved back to the Chicago area one year ago.  I was okay with the move because of those fond memories of forty years ago.  We settled in Western Springs and for the most part, reality has held up to those memories.  Midwestern people are some of the nicest that I’ve met.  We did a two-year stint in the south and I’ll say southern hospitality does not compare to midwestern kindness!

Although I’ve lived here a year, I hadn’t made one trip out to Winfield.  I never found the time or perhaps I didn’t want to ruin my idyllic memories with reality.  Perhaps I wanted to share it with my own family.  On Mother’s Day, my family, my husband, three boys and one daughter (same as forty years ago) headed to Winfield.  We went to church at St. John the Baptist.  We couldn’t eat at John’s Tavern but did eat at Caliendros.  We drove by ON 230 Leonard Street, my old house.  It is still the same but white instead of red.  It seemed so much smaller than I remembered.  Wincliff, my old swim club was gone. Besides those places there wasn’t much else to see.  We did go to Cantigny, a wonderful place from my childhood.  I remember picnicking there and climbing on all of those tanks…

Surprisingly, the visit didn’t make me sad.  It made me realize that our memories are not really of the places we’ve lived or been. They are of the people and the fun times, in this case, those wonderful, fun and friendly Midwesterners from forty years ago.

Originally Published in The Doings Newspaper in Hinsdale, IL

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