seeing chicago

The firstborn and I will be back in Chicago soon. Four days with the people and places we both love best.

I feel an urge to write that we are going home, except that we aren’t.

It isn’t only that we sold our Chicago apartment 18 months ago. It isn’t because we have no family there. We do have many friends, and they were our family for ten good years. Rather, it is that I was once planted in Chicago. I’m not planted there any longer, though I haven’t yet laid down roots in any other place. I feel as if (actually, I hope as if) we are in between homes. (Florida, you are lovely, but I do not think you will ever be home.)

Perhaps I can write of Chicago from my daughter’s point of view. She was born there, after all, and has more of a claim to the place than I do. Here is the hospital where she took her first breath. A few blocks away is the converted hotel (with a tunnel where Al Capone once smuggled gin). It was her first home. Here is the museum that became her own private wonderland; fairy castle, baby chicks, and all. And there is pebble beach, our pebble beach, where we swam in summer and climbed ice dams in winter. Even now when I stand at some water’s edge and look to my left, I half expect to see the glittering wall of a downtown skyline. Perhaps she does, too.

In this life, home is always temporary. In Chicago, I learned that it is possible to feel at home in a temporary place. It is possible to breathe deeply and live thoroughly in a home that won’t always be home.

Possible, yes, but never a given. Or, perhaps I should say that it is exactly that: a given thing. A grace thing.

When God tells his exiled people in Jeremiah that he will bring them home one day, he also says: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage …” (Jeremiah 29:5-6). His gift to them is a home in exile. Permission to live, even as they wait.

“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills.”

(Deuteronomy 8:7)

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