Monday, April 19, 2010

The Early Years group

Just over a year ago I found myself looking for old grade school classmates on Facebook.
..A pretty common activity for FB users. Especially when they're bored.

I spend my childhood growing up in Bolingbrook, Illinois. It's a pretty big suburb of Chicago these days, but when my family moved there in 1962 it was mostly cornfields. There were 2 small subdivisions of new inexpensive tract homes that comprised the village of Bolingbrook; Westbury and Colonial Village. Brand new houses there cost between $10,000 and $15,000. Modest but charming mid-century designs built by Dover Construction, about 8 models to choose from in their brochure.
There was one family-owned grocery store, one doctor (who made house calls), a barber shop and a penny candy store (which was only known as 'the little store'). For banking, post office, police and fire, we relied on nearby Lemont which was 15 minutes away.
In 1965 Bolingbrook was incorporated as a community and started providing their own police and fire protection. My dad was among the very first cops and firemen. My mom organized and helped run the Bolingbrook parades. There were 4th of July parades and open cookouts at the village firehouse, and a local ice cream truck that trolled the neighborhood. Every summer they would bring in a carnival with great rides, and every winter they'd have a Christmas decoration contest for the most Christmasy home (the house down our block always won). Spring would bring the smell of freshly-mowed lawns and charcoal barbecue. Fall would bring swarms of trick-or-treating kids out of the woodwork on Halloween, enduring long into the evening, door to door, block after block, reaping huge sacks of candy treasures at the end (and not those measly little mini-bars. I'm talking full-sized candy bars).
There were a lot of small-town activities organized with very little money. Mainly by families getting together and volunteering their time and energy. Picnics to pee-wee league ball.
Both of my parents were among the other few dozen young families who were always working to make their little hamlet a wonderful and safe place to raise a family.

It's a textbook case of charming small town America. And I got to be a part of it along with my 2 older sisters. It was serene and simple. And it was a wonderful place to grow up. My dad worked a lot sometimes, and we didn't have a lot of money, but we had everything we needed, a nice new split-level ranch home, a color TV, and room to roam on our bikes. Roam anywhere, completely unsupervised. ..Pretty free and blissful for a kid.

It was when the Old Chicago indoor amusement park came along, that my parents decided it was over for them.
Suburban sprawl was already encroaching the Southwest areas. Especially since the still recent I55 extension had replaced old Rt. 66. The commute into the city was now lightning fast, and more people looking to live outside the city saw Bolingbrook for what it was; a wonderful and safe place to raise a family. By the time we moved away in 1974 Bolingbrook had its own big box shopping mall, fast food restaurants, chain stores, ..and a number of new subdivisions had popped up like mushrooms in the once rich cornfields that cradled us. It was too much too soon. Schools couldn't be built fast enough and kids were bused to nearby Romeoville every day. The inexpensive condos that were built in the early 70s had quickly degenerated into Bolingbrook's first ghetto. Crime became more of an issue, and the building of Old Chicago was the writing on the wall for my folks.
They shopped for a home further South on I55, finding a lovely custom ranch in Channahon. And during the summer of '74 we moved, ..rather suddenly, it seemed. Just as I had finished the 7th grade.
I was 13.

I stayed in touch with my best friend Ted (whom I don't remember not being friends with), but being in a new house, new town, and new school provided plenty of distractions and opportunities for me as I moved into my teens. I made a number of new friends, and within a couple of years had started the next chapter of my life. My childhood in Bolingbrook, and the friends I made in school, became mostly memories.

"What hast thou wrought?"

So, I got a bug up my butt and, after finding a handful of old Bolingbrook friends I had lost touch with, started a Facebook group for us. I started scanning and posting old pictures from back then, and pages from a 1969 yearbook I had. Pretty soon others were doing the same. Friends started inviting their siblings and other old Bolingbrook classmates to the group, more old friends started popping up, and things began to blossom.
The group now has over 850 members, virtually all of whom lived (or still live) in the old sections of Bolingbrook. Many of them live throughout the country now, having families of their own. Most of them remember the early simpler years and have a great story to share, a detail to add, or a name forgotten. And it seems clear that it's been a lot of fun for them to come on and see who's there, look at the old photos, post a fond memory or announce some related news.
There are even senior citizens on there chiming in. Former village workers, trustees, and even Bolingbrook's current mayor is a member.

..All of this in one year.
It's pretty cool, I have to say.

Just this past weekend our group held a walking tour of old Colonial Village. My old neighborhood. It was a beautiful day, and a good turnout. The villages historic director met with us at the beginning and showed us the recently unveiled plans for a proposed history museum for the town, and gave us all a personal guided tour through the original police station; a 2 room farmhouse. It has been closed up for years and awaiting renovation, and will become part of the museum itself. Its interior will be entirely restored and completely re-staged as it was when first used back in the mid 60s.
It was the same police station my dad reported to when he was one of the first Bolingbrook cops.

The rest of the walk was like a trip back in time for us all. Virtually nothing had changed there, since Bolingbrook quickly sprawled as newer and nicer subdivisions were built. The trees were much bigger, and some of the houses needed repair, but many more of them were well-kept and maintained over the decades since. It was like walking through a living time capsule.
We finished our walking tour and gathered for a group photo near the 'little store' (now long gone) where we used to buy our penny candy. All in all it was a delightful day of reminiscing with old neighbors and even a couple of old classmates. Everyone had a great time, and it looks like we're going to schedule more of these walking tours in the future.

I did something good here. I think I should stick with it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

my colicky baby

Seeing my facebook friends with their cute lil' babies has been reminding me of my own children in their infancy. It really is a very special time, filled with wonder and delight. Everything changes. Partially because of the emotional uplift and the deep bonding, but partially because babies are high maintenance and demand a lot of care and attention.
Of course you know all of this stuff by now.
Sleep deprivation is one of the most common side-effects of newly acquired parenthood. Especially for mom. I did what I could for my own 2, but dad's not always enough and that's the way it is sometimes. Sleep deprivation can especially be a strain if a baby is colicky. For everyone. It's pretty common, but it can be even more hellish.
The colicky phase usually ends by 3 or 4 months, but can start anytime after birth.

My first was a colicky baby. Cerridwyn (or 'Dwynna' for short) didn't sleep through the night until she was 4 months old. We dealt with it pretty well, mainly because she was our first and we had no idea what to expect. Being new parents we kind of expected anything and everything. As far as we were concerned it was all wonderful.
Of course one of the inherent obstacles in putting a colicky daughter down to nap was lulling her to sleep, laying her in her crib and leaving the room quietly. Simply putting her in her crib awake was not an option. She would scream to the point of exploding. So if we could manage this much, it ensured everyone's chances of undisturbed sleep.

Unfortunately we lived in an old house with creaky floorboards, and doing this was next to impossible.
I would cradle her in my arms while feeding her, swaying steadily while seated in the rocking chair in her nursery. When she was out I would slowly stand and lie her down in her crib, carefully replacing the milk bottle with a pacifier, in mid-suckle, as to not disturb the rhythm.
If that went alright I would quietly tip-toe out of the room, carefully avoiding the known creaky spots on the floors. Once I made it out of the room and closed the door I was home free.
The scenario was almost identical to the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
If I could not replace the idol with a fake nipple, and tip-toe around the nasty spots, then 7 gates of hell would break loose.
And I would spend an eternity in that chamber.

Sometimes it did seem like an eternity.
And both of us would end up falling asleep in the rocking chair.

..She's going to be sweet 16 this October.

It does go fast, friends, so enjoy it as much as you can.
respectfully yours in parenthood,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

a glance back at the noughts;

A lot can happen in a decade.
A lot, and it passes so quickly. Barely a chance to say hello and goodbye.

a few highlights and dark patches;

- 2000: Spent Christmas of 1999 in the new house on Chase Ave. in Rogers Park.
Celebrated New Years Eve at the Metro with Jane and another couple. The Flaming Lips w/ a reunited Hum. Unbelievable show.

- 2001: I turn 40. Big party at Leona's. Very nice time. Find out my father has prostate cancer. Surgery follows.

- 2002: I begin training at Improv Olympic. Spend the next 9 months studying ensemble improvisation. The family adopts a stray Shih-Tsu and call her Lucy. My fathers' cancer returns. He begins chemo and radiation therapy sessions.

- 2003: My marriage to Jane ends after 13 years. I break ties with the community of people she associated with. I audition for an improv troupe and co-found International Stinger. I start smoking cigarettes again (oof!)

- 2004: My father passes away at age 69. My dog Ozzi has to be euthanized at age 15.
Focus on work, single parenthood, and improv. GREAT year of improv and Stinger. First DSIF, Monday Show rehearsals and first 8 week run.

- 2005: Lots of work, Spring trip to Disneyworld with my mom and the kids. More great improv with Stinger. We gain membership status at the Playground Theater and rank as a top troupe. Another glorious Monday Show run. Standing ovation at DSIF!

- 2006: Meet Leslie in September. Wonderful lady, good changes happening. Road trip to KC. Lots of good Stinger shows. . My dog Alma is put down. She was 16.

- 2007: Romantic year. Week-long trip to Philadelphia with Leslie in May, then to Tulum for a wedding in the Fall. Dwynna turns 13; officially a teenager. Work picks up on remodeling my home. Massive bathroom demo and remodel at my house. Last DSIF trip with Stinger. Coach Bob and member Stacey move to Portland.

- 2008: I adopt a stray cat, and call her Scully. Leslie moves in with me. Stinger goes to Toronto Improv Festival. I take a break from Improv after 6 years. Lots of work on the house. The country elects Obama as its first black President.

- 2009: Buy new Mac Pro, printer, 30" monitor. Invested in 3D software. Economy tanks, unexpected sewage issue, debts build to boiling point. Celebrate 10 years at 1340 West Chase Ave.

..Kind of a cursory examination I suppose. Some pretty sad times in there. A few intentionally not mentioned. And glorious moments too. Lots of them. All formative years, and much of it blurred by how quickly it has passed. Seemingly faster than any other decade in my life.
In fact, I know there will be things I'll remember later that didn't make the above summarization. Even special moments.

But glancing back and looking ahead, this is about making better years ahead. Being with Leslie, and being with my children more. A better year, and a better future. Winds of change are blowing. Good ones.

So long, noughts. It has been quite a ride.