Fifty-one years-ago this past May, aboard an Aer Lingus 707, I arrived at JFK to meet my adoptive parents for the first time. I spent the first night in my new Northern New Jersey home…and basically, I never left.
I couldn’t wait to leave for college, but after four-years in Philadelphia, I gravitated back to northern New Jersey. My first apartment with friends was only 5 miles from the home I grew up in and the home I just moved out of, where I raised my daughter, was only 6 and half miles away.
There were lots of times that I fantasied about a change of scenery. There was the time back in the 80s when my friend and I made plans to move to Charleston, South Carolina after college even going as far to spend a weekend there looking at apartments. My late husband and I had considered Vermont, Oregon, and yes, Charleston again (because its warmer in Charleston).
Ultimately, proximity to family was the biggest factor that kept us here and then once our daughter was born we wanted to have roots. The plan was always that we’d finally consider a big move in June 2018 – the month our daughter would graduate from High School and we’d celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Our gift to ourselves: a huge reduction in property taxes. (I wrote about how I continued to make that dream a reality few weeks ago).
Chicago has been pulling me for a long time. My first trip was in 1985 with my college boyfriend who grew up here. I loved it (although this New Yorker didn’t admit that to him at the time). We came back again the following summer. In 1994, just after leaving my first big job, I went to work for a Chicago-based company and spent a week out here for training. I did a lot of exploring by myself and remember feeling very at home.
Work I was doing with a national non-profit took me on a couple business trips here in 2012 – once for a meeting at the Admiral’s Club, where I never left O’Hare. I was also aware of a former work colleague from that first big job who went to work for the Chicago Tribune and was transferred here in 1994. There was just something about Chicago.
In 2015, I ran the Chicago Marathon. In 2016, my daughter’s Sweet-Sixteen present was an all-expense-paid trip for all four days of Lollapalooza for her and a friend (it was what she wanted and was cheaper than a party). By December of that year, I was starting to make some regular trips to the Windy City, because that “former work colleague” was now my boyfriend.
When my daughter started looking at colleges, with all my other family gone, I was acutely aware that there wasn’t a lot keeping me in New Jersey. I told her to select the right school and not worry about the location. I would just move to be closer to her…wherever that was. Of course, that was when we were looking at schools in Southern California, not Chicago.
By the time Chicago became an option, I was invested in a life here even if it meant more cold winters. It certainly wasn’t cold when I arrived on Friday, although I know that will change come fall. But as I said to someone who questioned my decision, “I have my love to keep me warm.” So, why Chicago? It was just meant to be.