Oh, this is going to be fun…
It was inevitable. My then-husband, The Very Important Junior Executive, decided that what we really needed was a split-level home in the suburbs. What 22-year-old woman doesn’t dream of leaving Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood for a home in the suburbs, surrounded by . . . nothing?
And not just any suburb. We moved to unincorporated Downers Grove. I learned a new word! “Unincorporated.” That meant that we lived in an area that was really and truly, completely surrounded by nothing. And at night, in 1972, it was very, very dark. Today, it’s a very lively location, with lots of stores and better highways. And street lights. I still would not want to live there.
The short time spent in this house has mostly (and gratefully) been erased from my memory. I do remember that I had my own car, which was a good thing since I had to drive miles to reach civilization and shopping. I got lost a lot. Drop me off in any suburb today, and in two minutes, I will be lost. Yes, even with GPS on my phone.
One of the first meals I cooked here was a small roast for Sunday dinner. Just like Mother made. Every Sunday. I placed the meat in an enormous Dutch oven, put the cover on, and placed it in a 350° oven. Two hours later, we had a lovely grey football that could not be chewed by human teeth. So…not at all like Mother’s. I started to watch Julia Child’s The French Chef program religiously.
Which brings me to another memorable meal. I decided to try my hand at a cheese soufflé. Following Julia’s instructions to the letter, I produced a perfect, beautiful, cheese soufflé. It took me 4 hours. It was golden, and it did not fall. I was proud and excited. I served it with a salad on the side. My charming then-husband surveyed the gourmet dinner I proudly presented, and asked, “Is this all we’re having?” (I’m not at all bitter about this.)
I also remember going to a neighbor’s house for a welcome “coffee klatch.” The mostly 30-Somethings talked only about their children and their forthcoming children, and grilled me about my then-husband’s job. After that stimulating social event, I never actually saw any of them again. I didn’t mind.
[Note: I continue to refer to my “then-husband” so as not to confuse him with my current, Practically Perfect in Every Way Husband. Which is to be read with great humor.]
Shortly after moving into the house, my then-husband had to leave on a business trip between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I was alone in that house, on that very, very dark street, reading a new book that I had received for Christmas – The Exorcist. I did not sleep while he was gone. I decided I needed a dog.
On a lovely Spring day, I met two delightful neighbor children when I was in the yard with my new puppy. They asked me where my Dad was. Puzzled, I imagined that my father was working, so that’s what I told them. In true Stepford fashion, they were content with that answer. It was two days before I realized they were talking about my then-husband. Which meant that I was the “Mom.” Yikes.
To the children, I was a mom. On the opposite side of the coin, a Bible salesman came to our door one day and asked me if my mother was home. When I told him that my mother was probably at home in her own house, he laughed. Out loud. I did not buy a bible.
After a few months of living with a puppy who refused to do her duty outside every time, not just once in a while, my husband, emulating The Grinch before his heart grew 3 sizes, decided we had to get rid of her. I gave her to my darling Aunt Marge, who generously offered to house her, in spite of all her shortcomings. The puppy’s shortcomings, not Aunt Marge’s. Aunt Marge is perfect.
Shortly afterwards, I got rid of my then-husband. Fairy tales can come true!
Here it is, 7616 Williams Street. I did not spend much time sketching this house, because I didn’t want to. Notice the approaching storm. Pencil, pen and watercolor.
Next stop, independence in Brookfield.