It’s always said you can’t go home again, but I’ve found you can. What you can’t do is go back in time and relive what you had. But there’s a lot to be learned about yourself and your perceptions by revisiting something you loved once, or remember vividly if only to see how you will react to the changes.
But the Pizza…
I’ve done this at various times throughout the past 20 years. I left Illinois in 1987, but over the years, I’ve revisited the sleepy town I grew up in to see how it’s changed and to visit some of my favorite places and see if they are still as good as I remember. Some, like the pizza place I loved as a kid, are exactly the same. The same 70’s era tables with leaves lacquered into the table tops. I swear it looks like I stepped into 1976 when I walk in there. The pizza hasn’t changed either. My favorite pizza place is an Italian restaurant on the Fox River in St, Charles, IL. I should say it’s my favorite pizza place and end it there. I’ve never had anything in there but a pizza. It’s a full Italian restaurant, and everything looks great. Every time I’ve gone there, I tell myself, “I’m going to try something besides pizza this time.” That lasts until a freshly made pizza is walked by me, wafting its flavors across my face. I’ve still never had anything but the pizza.
It’s Chicago pizza. Thick, stacked high, but with the cheese browned on top of all the goodness inside. As a Chicagoan, I’ve had as much pizza as one person can have, and none has ever compared to Salerno’s.
The best date I ever had
Across the river is the Pottawatomie Park, so named after the local Indian tribe. I spent many a romantic date in this park when I was in high school. Again, it’s updated, but not changed. I could take Linda whats-her-name back for an all-day romp on a brisk October day and I bet it would be just as fun as it was then. OK, maybe it wouldn’t be, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I can even remember the regret I felt after realizing that all I had to do to keep her around was call her once in a while. A tough lesson for a 10th-grade boy to learn, but one that had to be taught.
More still to revisit
I’ve yet to revisit the 1800s red-brick schoolhouse I started 4th grade in another 10 miles out into the country. I might drive by their next time I find myself in Chicago. I haven’t been back to the Sears (Willis) tower, or the Hancock Building, or any of the fine museums in Chicago, but I’m sure they have only gotten better.
When we revisit places, we ultimately don’t revisit the place, but ourselves. We remember how we felt, we remember a part of ourselves. What we lament are the things we did then that we no longer do now, the feelings we had that are no longer with us. Some of these things are just because we’ve grown and it’s the natural order of life. But others, like my life-lesson from Linda, make me sad. It’s a good memory, but I wish I would have known then what I know now. There were a lot of memories I could have made with her. And until I sat down and wrote about this, I had completely forgotten her – her face, her smile, her brilliant eyes, her laugh. She’s probably 47 or 48 now, and I have no idea where she is, nor am I going to stalk her to find out. If I ever do run into her, I’ll simply thank her for two things – one was the best date of my life, ever, and the other was the valuable lesson she taught me to never take anything for granted.
I recently met a business associate who lives in my not-so-little-anymore hometown. He graduated high school the same year as me and grew up a few towns to the East of St. Charles. He even dated a few people I knew. It was a catalyst for so many memories of a relatively short period in my life, that I’m now craving for more triggers to jiggle loose the memories I know are in there.
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