A unique kind of homesick

When I told people in Ohio that I was moving to Chicago, so many people insisted how cold it was about to get. Granted, I was leaving at the end of October, but I honestly didn’t think it would be that different from winters back home. As we know now I was horribly wrong and I went on to experience one of the biggest snow storms in Chicago’s history. And I’ll never forget that miserable New Year’s Day when Randy, Nathan and I tried in vain, braving the worst wind I’ve ever tried to walk in, to find the entrance to the Lincoln Park Zoo and I begged them to give up and get back on a Clark Street bus where, presumably, the wind couldn’t follow us. Randy was especially determined but then again, the kid lived in Alaska for four years. In retrospect, I’m really glad we didn’t give up.

In any case, Chicago really is a vastly different place than I’ve been used to in a lot of ways. I miss home sometimes, but it’s because of the weirdest things. Christina (as in Columbus Christina) once told me a little sheepishly that she liked going to Walmart now and then because it made her think of college, when Walmart was the only available option in Cambridge, Ohio. I know what she meant and even though I haven’t been to a Walmart since I left home, I can’t help but feel sadly normal for a change when I drive my car to go shop at Target. That sounds completely asinine and so big-box, corporate America, but seriously — we were talking about this at lunch the other day and I’m glad others think this, too. Targets are laid out the same across the country in such a way that if you lost track of what you were doing, you might think for a split second you were in the city you used to live, shopping at the old Target you used to buy laundry detergent at. My vehemently anti-suburban sprawl uncle is going to positively cringe if he reads this, but there you have it. That’s not to say I don’t still miss Cup O’ Joe, Surly Girl and my other old non-franchise Columbus haunts, and that I’m sure to find my new Chicago equivalents; It’s just a strange phenomenon.

But still, this is nothing compared to the shiver I felt last weekend when John, Christina (as in Chicago Christina) and I were sitting on the porch talking and suddenly I heard an owl hoot. The only other time I’ve heard that sound was in my backyard in southeastern Ohio, but I heard it ALL the time, for years. And yet here it was, that exact same sound in a Chicago neighborhood: the same timbre or pitch, or whatever you want to call it. It was the most surreal thing, and oddly comforting, not that I needed to be comforted right then. It’s 500 miles from here to Caldwell but it felt like nothing at that moment.

One day last week I was getting off the red line, I was buried in my library copy of “Round Up The Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca” when someone touched my arm. I looked up, and a friend of Christina’s smiled and waved at me before darting off to catch her train. This was the first time I’d run into someone I knew when I wasn’t expecting to here. It had happened so fast I had to question whether or not it actually had happened, but sure enough. I told Christina about it, and she laughed.

“This is the biggest small town in the world,” she said. “You just wait.”