In my new place. Last night I looked out my bay window, to the west a beautiful sunset and to the east the reflection of this vermillion glow in the windows of the high rises.
And now it's morning of a new day. I just ate banana flax pancakes with Ikey at my kitchen table, in this old, old kitchen high up above the Chicago traffic. I'm looking out the window, past empty syrupy dishes and Easter Lily, at another old brick building across the street. Historic North Dover Street in Ravenswood. I want to disregard all these ticky tacky boxes calling out to be emptied and put into order. I have opened and picked through them as needed for the past seven days. Just for a few minutes anyway, I want to forget about them and get lost in this old kitchen and the secret stories it carries within its walls.
This building was built in 1917 (before my parents were even born). The bright, white kitchen walls are old wooden plank. There is a back door and a walk-in pantry. The floors squeak in places as I walk across them. The plumbing in the bathroom has been upgraded (if you can call it that) probably sometimes in the 50's or 60's. But all the crazy old fixtures remain, unused. Some wild open pipe with a porcelain knobbed plunger by the tub that reads "WASTE". I'm really glad they left this when they "remodelled". Another story. Something I would have never known about without seeing it. I mean, no one really talks about the WASTE plunger in the old bathroom. Perhaps I might have come upon in a literary piece, but still, to see it and touch it is a whole different experience. How many mamas struggled over this waste pipe and its mess? How many children inquisitively dropped marbles into its ravenous mouth? Real life happened here. Real life with tiny details that aren't often mentioned. My bed rests in a sunroom and I wonder how many women sat at a desk instead here, and wrote their memoirs. The folding door that is my closet now was once home to a murphy's bed and I imagine the sunroom was just that: A place to enjoy the sun. Letting in all the light it could gather on a snowy winter's day. The trees are bare right now, but I eagerly await the breeze from the lake, and the fluttering rustle and shadows of the green leaves come summertime.
Through these things I am developing a relationship with all those folks who have lived here before me. I like to imagine other strong women, maybe grandmas, who sat in this kithcen on a Sunday morning enjoying pancakes with a child. Palm Sunday. Maybe another Polish Babuska, frying up Paczki for the family instead?
Last week I was walking the babies and I stopped into a feminist bookstore on Clark Street called Women and Children First. While there, I joined a book club called "The Family of Women Reading Group". The current read is Miriam's Kitchen, a memoir by Elizabeth Ehrlich. The story of how Ehrlich was ambivalent about her background until she entered the kitchen of her Jewish mother-in-law, a Holocaust survivor; and as she spent time cooking and listening there, had a spiritual awakening. This book, this apartment couldn't have come together at a better time in my life.
Pretty much alone here in Chicago, with hours upon hours to think, right as I enter into my Saturn return, I look back and look forward. I feel my ancestors more as the people they were aside from the stories. I long to know them now. And in that longing I contemplate who I want to be remembered as and how to chronicle this life. I want my children and their children to know the small nuances of what makes me the woman they experience.
Is that my purpose these days, to create history? I meditate to my God, and ask that those who have passed before me across these wooden floors imbue me with the knowledge of what is important to leave behind. Now is the time for me to begin. During my quiet (and often lonely) few years spent in Chicago. Everything, every situation happens for a reason. And my co-writers are spirits I've never known who live in these walls, who have sat at this very window, sipping coffee and wondering just what is important. If I listen closely can I hear their words carried to me in the call of the gulls flying to Lake Michigan or the sirens in the night? My ears, my heart, my every cell are open to each sound as I step across the squeaking boards, on my way to bed, in the dark of the night.
But right now I gather up my laundry and lug it down six flights of stairs to the laundromat across the street. Because we all know, after the ecstasy comes the laundry.