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Return to Childhood: Western Springs, IL

September 1st, 2011 by Fitz, Travel Adventures & Places, 0 Comments

Western Springs Water Tower

This is an introspective post that won’t have a lot of relevance to anyone else. Returning to one’s childhood home is a pretty insular experience.

During my short stay in Chicago I took one day to travel out to nearby Western Springs and visit my childhood neighborhood. This is an area I hadn’t visited in 38 years! I still have poignant memories of that time but the years have transformed them into gauzy and dream-like recollections. Odd, disjointed things spike in my mind when I think back to that time.

When I arrived I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Elation? Disappointment? The neighborhood was more affluent than I remember it but it had a feeling of familiarity. I think it was the trees overhead that triggered recall more than anything. I paused by one and its bark pattern grabbed me. I knew this bark. It was shocking how strongly I remembered it. I knelt down and spent a moment staring at it’s patterns and recalling chipping at it and watching ants crawl along it so long ago.

Some houses were very familiar but most weren’t. My old home looked as it had – but I’ve old pictures to keep those memories on track. I found my old school and remembered nothing of it till I walked along the side and saw the glass walkway. That I knew. I probably didn’t remember the front because as a kid I would have been dropped off by the side and come and gone thru that walkway.

I continued the short distance to the old water tower. It was only a mile from my old home but as a kid it had seemed a lengthy excursion even on a bike. Again, was this area always so affluent? It seemed so much more middle class as a kid. Maybe children don’t really notice wealth.

I called my mom from under the water tower and we discussed the area and had a great time reminiscing about living here. Yes, she assured me, it had always been a high-income neighborhood and it was only by the rarest chance we got to live there. She confided that she loved Western Springs and would have been more than happy to live out here life there had the FBI not transfered my dad to Washington DC.

The day grew long and I packed myself into my car to return to Chicago. As the highway droned along I couldn’t help but mull over what my life might have been like if I’d grown up entirely in the shadow of that water tower.