Friday, April 13, 2018

A Tree Grows on the South Side of Chicago

The weather has turned warm and it feels more like summer than April. I have enjoyed having my coffee in the yard. Sitting there looking at the orange trees with the last of their fragrant blossom, the row of redwoods that block out the world, the pink azaleas that remind me of a favorite party dress I had when I was thirteen, and all the green in between feels like the perfect moment.

But next week the backdrop will change to what seems to be a week of cool rainy weather in Chicago with the possibility of some snow flurries. I expect that spring will have sprung and there will be violets mixing in with the grass and hopefully the row of lilac bushes I pass on the way to the grocery store will be in bloom. As a side note, before I could post this I got an alert from American Airlines about bad weather and I ended up having to move my trip back a few days.

It will be a writer’s retreat for me. I have to dive into the manuscript I kept putting aside when I got the edits for the next Crochet Mystery. I left all those characters in mid story. In my mind I see them all hanging around the Lodge at Vista Del Mar frozen in time. I have to let them come back to life.

I read something that mentioned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn last week and I decided it was time I finally read it. I’ve seen the movie numerous times and bought a hard bound copy of it a long time ago.

I read differently now. I am into the story, but at the same time always looking at the structure. How does the author tell the story.

Francie’s childhood reminds me of my own in some ways. Hers and mine were light years from the hovering parents of today. My parents both worked and I was pushed to be on my own from a young age. When I was eight, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra put on a concert series for young people. They were on a weekday and we were allowed to leave school early and on our own take the train downtown for the concert.

When I was nine, my girlfriend and I would go downtown alone and go out for lunch. There was a restaurant in Chas A. Stevens called The Circle. They served a price fixe lunch and tea. Lunch as a dollar and afternoon tea was thirty-five cents. Instead of tables, there were seats with a tray attached which could be grouped together. The server would simply put the tray of your lunch on top of it. I remember people commenting on how cute we were, which I couldn’t understand because I thought we were so grown up.

I got my first job when I was eleven. Someone had posted a sign in the grocery store about needing a full time baby sitter. It was summer and I went to meet the people on my own. And they hired me. For a week from eight to five I took care of a two year old. I changed his diapers, fed him, took him out for a walk and played with him. My pay for the week was ten dollars which I figured out was like twenty cents an hour. At the end of the week, I asked for a raise. They said no and that was the end of my job.

By the time I was thirteen I was babysitting all the time. In the summer I had a volunteer job riding around in a truck called the Craftmobile. There were no seat belts or even seats, we all just rode loose in the truck. We stopped at playgrounds and set up tables and chairs and did crafts with the kids. The rest of day I baby sat. By then, I already knew that anything I really wanted I was going to have to get on my own. It was probably the best lesson I ever learned.


Linda O. Johnston said...

Your memories sound wonderful! Not sure you'd enjoy it, but we went to see the movie Rampage last night and--well, a lot of that rampage takes place in Chicago.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, I didn't realize Rampage took place in Chicago. All I noticed on the commercials was the Rock and what seemed like King Kong.