On Dreams and the El

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My grandfather grew up on the South side of Chicago in the Roseland neighborhood. There are stories of gang fights (primarily fists in those days), Hugh Hefner peddling his new magazine to be sold from under stacks of the Trib and my great-grandmother in a real, live flapper dress. But what my Dad vividly remembers were the trips to visit the old neighborhood that resulted in a ride on the el to go downtown. Bars were at the base of each stop and while my grandfather and great-grandfather took a beer and a shot at each, my Dad was treated to a Coca-Cola and chocolate bar. I’m sure grandma was thrilled when they returned- a loaded husband and sugar-overloaded kid. But those trips downtown were important because it was time together for 3 generations to dream. To look at buildings and people and shiny streets and dream about what it would be like to live there, how to make it happen, what else they had seen or heard about in the world that they found fascinating. It didn’t matter whether or not the dream came to fruition- the fun was that the dream was available to create and it was theirs.

Growing up hearing these stories, I came to realize that with every achievement or happiness my Dad had, a piece of my Grandfather’s dream was being realized. They were dreams he didn’t even know he had but everything my Dad did and, in turn, everything I did, was his dream simply because we were family. You probably didn’t know it was someone’s dream for their 13 year old granddaughter to score 3 goals in a soccer game but I will never forget the expression on his face. To know you are supported by that kind of love…well, anything is possible then. It taught me that I could dream, I could set goals, I could live any life I wanted. It taught me that I could love others the way I am loved.

I felt really badly that I couldn’t be with my Dad on Father’s Day this year. I couldn’t give him a gift in person or a card or share a meal. But then I think about the dreaming we did when I was a kid and the dreaming we still do together today and I know we weren’t far apart. I think about how I’m proud I am of the life I lead not just because it works for me but because this life came from the support from generations of dreamers. I think about the el and how with every creaky turn, dreams are coming true and families are loving each other.

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