life, memoir, thoughts

My Puzzle Piece

Have you ever felt out of place, like a puzzle piece in the wrong picture? That’s how I have felt since the year 1988. That was the year my husband and I moved from the Chicago suburbs to Florida.

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A park in the center of the town where I grew up.

We were quite young, still practically newlyweds, married two months shy of three years. To make the reason we moved brief, we weren’t making it financially in Illinois. We researched for a place that would be more affordable for us to live. At the time, Florida was very affordable, not to mention the beckoning winter climate compared to the Chicago area.

The house where I grew up.
The house where I grew up.

It was scary to leave my family, friends and the only home I’d ever known, but exciting at the same time. During that first year, we spent every weekend at the beach or a pool. Even though we worked, it felt like an extended vacation. By Christmas, I wanted the vacation to end so I could go home again. We didn’t make it home and stayed for the next twenty-five years (and counting).

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I’m not sorry we moved, because things fell into place for us afterward. Our finances improved … well, at least enough to pay our limited monthly bills and have some leftover for weekend fun. We were still quite young and dependent before we left. The distance also helped us to mature. So yes, it was the right move, at least at that time. Yet, still today, the Chicago area is not affordable enough for us to move back.

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A historical church in the center of the town where I grew up.

A few days ago I returned home from a visit with family and friends back in the Chi-town burbs. I always feel like my puzzle piece fits there. Back here in Florida … things are fine … hot, but fine. Except, I feel slightly out of place, like a door ajar. Back home, we speak the same language. We “super fans” cheer on, “Da Bearsss!”  We chat and laugh with strangers in line at the grocery store or the bank. We say, “Chicawwgo,” not “Chicaahgo.” We order pop not soda. We run to the corner Jewel to buy giardiniera, Canfields lemon soda water or Jay’s potato chips (yes, Jays not Lays). We like to cut-up with friends at Portillos over Vienna hot dogs, a “wet” beef sandwich, or order a Lou Malnati’s pizza. None of those things are available at this slightly out of place … place where I live.

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I’m grateful for the two-week joy-filled time with family and friends back in my home town. Yet, I realize I am blessed to have a comfortable home in Florida. I’m lucky to have a fulfilling life back in the door frame where I’m slightly ajar, but still attached to the hinges quite nicely.

Some of the homes in my home town.
Some of the homes in my home town.

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I liked the way this photo of the old church turned out and wanted to post it.
Here’s the old church again.

 

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37 thoughts on “My Puzzle Piece”

  1. My husband and I didn’t go far from the place where we both grew up. I’ve often wished to try something different, but it seems once you begin to settle in where you land, you get more stuck there by the day. Jobs, family, financial obligations kept us where we began. I still often wonder what it would be like to start over somewhere new, but through your words, I have a greater appreciation for “home.”

    My sister and her husband left here to live in the Chicago area for a while. He was a mortgage broker. They had a beautiful home and loved it there. (He grew up there and still has family in the area.) But when the economy tanked, they couldn’t stay there either. They came back up north. They’re pretty happy here, but there is definitely something about the Chicago area that grabs ahold of those who have lived there. They will always hold on to their Chicago roots no matter where they go.

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    1. So true, Terri, about Chicago roots grabbing hold and not letting go. My family thought I was nuts for leaving, because they love Chicago (despite its winters). I do too, we just needed to do what was best for our lives at the time. BTW, my mom’s side of the family is from Minnesota. I still have cousins there from my grandma’s side. I think much of the Midwest is similar with its people/culture.

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    1. Thank you, Marsha. This is so kind of you to say. It’s nice to hear I’m on the right/write track. Heh. I never can tell for sure. Healing to both of us … your knee and this flu/cold thing that’s beating me up today.

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  2. Oh, Lori, I can understand this. Barry’s parents moved from Michigan to Georgia in the 1990’s and describe the same thing. Perhaps there are certain places where we simply feel more ourselves, perhaps in some mysterious ways.

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  3. I actually feel more out of place when I go back to the Midwest now. Once we got over the initial “moving shock,” Maryland came to feel more like home every day. And even though I grew up in northern Illinois, my dad was a Packers fan. 😉

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    1. It’s great that you’ve adjusted and have made that place your home. I feel at home wherever my husband is (and dog(s)), and I love our house. Outside of that, like I said, I feel just slightly ajar. Thanks for stopping by and sharing, JM.

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  4. I wish I could go home again; to the farm where I grew up; no one is there. I could move back and start again…another house; another yard; but I feel I will never go back even though my heart never left.
    A very poignant post. I loved the photos.

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    1. I still have family and friends back home, but that likely won’t always be the case. The house I grew up in is still there for now. But, there are others on the street that have been knocked down and replaced with mansions. Richer people are moving into the town. Mine may be knocked down one of these days too. Thanks for reading it, Linda. I know home will always be in both of our hearts.

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  5. Loevly post and photos. I enjoyed being able to see these special places. You’ve described it so well, going home, where they understand you and you them, you don’t need to think much about directions or choices, you just do what you’ve always done. It’s restful, a place in your spirit is nourished by the familiarity of what you see and do. Although you’ve moved away it’s wonderful that the people and places are still there, at home, to welcome you 🙂

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    1. Wow, since you were five. Add 20 years to that and that’s when I came here. So, are you a Giants, Jets or Dolphins fan? I’m forever a fan of … Da Bearsss. 🙂

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  6. I wish a fantastic visit back “home” – I understand that you’re longing. A beautiful post and your photos are superb. I think I will struggle big time to live at a constant warm spot … I hope that one day you will be able to move back to your beloved Chicago. Looking forward to your reports … and travel safely you two. Send Chicago my love – I’m 90% I will be back next year. Now when my pension came out so good. *smile

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    1. Hey Viveka, we already went to Chicago and arrived home a few days ago. Yes, the constant warmth here isn’t always so great. I do miss the change of seasons, but I’m still grateful for the home I’m lucky enough to have in Florida … for now. *wink Thanks for your well wishes.

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  7. This is a great post, Lori! And I love your beautiful photos. It will be interesting to see how your experience in Florida evolves over time. Have a beautiful week! Love & Light, Sloan

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    1. Twenty-five years of life unfolding in Florida already. People talk about retiring here, I talk about retiring out of here. 😉 But, like I’ve said, I’m grateful for the life we’ve been able to build here. We’re right where we’re supposed to be and it’s all good. Thanks for the nice comment about my photos, Sloan.

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  8. We’ve moved a fair amount, and yet we never seem to make it out of the Midwest, even though we talk about warmer climates. After reading your post, maybe I know why. Maybe it’s something my psyche won’t allow. Or maybe that’s just my excuse to assure myself the hubs and I have made the right choices. 😉

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    1. I loved the warmer climate in the beginning, now I dread it. It stays hot here for a huge part of the year. Still hot now. Although the humidity may lower some time in October, I likely won’t be able to turn off the a/c until November. I usually tell people (jokingly) that there are three things I like about Florida … January, February, March and my writer’s group. Though, I truly am grateful for the life my husband and I have been able to build together here. I know you and your hubs have made the right choices. You are right where you are supposed to be, as am I … for now. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Lauren. I thought you might move to FL at one time. I guess that didn’t pan out? Home never leaves us no matter where we make our home. 😉 Good to see ya.

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      1. No, it was one of those things you imagine will be great, but then the path throws you and changes completely, only the reveal something greater. 🙂

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    1. Yes, we grew up real quick being all on our own away from both of our families. It was needed though. And, I do appreciate the time my family and friends make for me when I visit. Maybe if I didn’t live there it would be like they could see me at any time, and we wouldn’t make plans. Thanks for reading and commenting, Anneli.

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  9. We never really leave where we’re from, even when we physically left a LONG time ago. As one who’s lived in many places I know how you feel. Going on ten years now in VA, that’s a LOT! 🙂

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    1. It’s always good to be understood, Pete. So, thanks for the comment and understanding. We’re tethered to that original home even when we’re a million miles away.

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