This post is my submission for ChicagoNow's monthly Blogapalooza. Bloggers are given a topic and challenged to write a blog in one hour. This month's topic: "Pick an age and write about what summer – one memory, one day or the summer in general – was like from when you were that age"
It was a hot summer in Chicago. The deadliest of all summer heat waves smothered our windy city. The death toll was more than 700. Maybe that's why I remember the summer so clearly. It was a historic one for the city and for me - the memories of the summer I became myself are crystal clear.
I was 25 years old, living in a quaint, overpriced and perfect studio in Boystown. I took public transportation to work, walked to get groceries and beached on the weekends. I can smell the heat in the air, the exhaust from the 145 bus route, the sewer stench on Belmont and Broadway and loved all of it. I felt like me. The truest of Neens. Me, plain and simple.
I was finally healing from heartbreak after being dumped by who I thought at the time was the love of my life (false. I was 25 you know...) I started dating. A lot. Gosh was that fun. My friends, all happily coupled, lived vicariously through my dating escapades. Blind dates seemed to attract me like a moth to a flame. I went on three that stand out vividly: the albino, the corporate golden boy and the guy that was disappointed when he saw me. Those were good times with many drinks and even better stories.
While I was glaringly single in my world full of couples, I was happy, content, free and felt so ALIVE. The days were beautifully long and the summer was even longer. I played hookie from work to go to the Art Institute and felt zero guilt. That was a big deal for me. Generation X, shmex. I was a girl raised in a blue collar family, raised to go to college, get a job and work hard. Skipping work was for slackers. I wasn't one. But that day.... It was the summer that made me do it. I highly recommend hookie on occasion because of it...
When I felt decadent, I bought expensive lipstick at Henri Bendel on Michigan Avenue. When I felt frugal, I sauteed mushrooms and rice for dinner. When I felt lonely, I walked along Broadway and grabbed a coffee among strangers. When I felt sad, I ran along the lakefront from Belmont to North Avenue, the skyline and the other runners turning my mood into something lighter. When I was happy, which was most of the time, I walked and walked, I sat in my apartment and listened to the Counting Crows and Dave Matthews and anything XRT was playing that night.
My life was my own. I was coming into who I would become. Without knowing it, I was living in the moment, living my life, unhurried and unworried.
I remember going to the Pride parade by myself that year. My usual Pride companions were out of town and I didn't want to miss it. I strolled down my block with my tiny lawn chair and sat. I met so many people - gay, straight, kind and silly. We shared smiles and hugs and kisses and beer. It was by far, one of the happiest of my days. The feeling of pure joy and an overwhelming sense of freedom surrounded me.
I remember going to the beach by myself that year. A lot. I had a great social life. But being alone appealed to me just as much as being with my people. I would stroll with my 90s version of cut-offs and a belly shirt with my bikini hidden underneath them, down to the rocks at Belmont Harbor. I had a walkman and some magazines as I sprawled out on the rocks for hours and hours on Saturday afternoons. I can smell the lake and the moss and the grass around me still. I can hear the frisbee-playing cute boys swearing and laughing and calling over to me to come play. I can feel myself smile and shake my head 'no' and wave. The days were long. The summer was endless.
I fell into myself during the summer of 1995. It was a culmination of years of being a daughter, a sister, a friend, a college student, a girlfriend, a colleague, a peer. It's no wonder, after a summer of self, I met my Hubs later that fall. I believe, when we are our truest selves, at our most comfortable, at home with ourselves, we attract the same. While the winter of that year subtly changed me from single girl to coupled girl, the summer of 1995 grew me into the woman I would become.
What was your best summer? What do you remember the most? The heat, the music, a vacation? Let me know in the comments below!
For your listening pleasure, here is a big hit from the summer of 1995. It was released in 1994, but hit the charts that summer...
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