The Suburbs

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.

Oh, the places I’ve been…

I have started a new project – drawing all the places I’ve lived.  It would have been a great idea, had I started this when I was 24.  But I’m going to give it a go, starting with the house my parents lived in when I was born.

I have no memories of this house, so I can’t provide you with any amusing anecdotes of my life there.  All I know is that we lived in the basement of this house.  I had to Google the picture, and after 65 years, I was surprised that it was still standing!  I’m pretty sure there was a wooden – not concrete – front porch, with a wooden railing.  And there probably was no glass block in the basement window.

Here is 1759 W. 71st Street.  I drew the house twice – once for practice, and again in a 5×7 accordion-fold sketchbook – using pencil, ink and watercolor.

FirstHome  71stStreetHouseLoRes

I lived there for about six months.  When I was five months old, my grandmother died.  My father’s oldest sister, Aunt Sis, suggested that we move out of the basement to live in my grandmother’s apartment at 8051 S. Green Street – along with two uncles and two aunts.  Aunt Sis, Uncle Walter and my five cousins lived in the upstairs apartment.  I don’t remember too much about living there, either.  I seem to remember playing in the back yard with a boy named Tommy – but he could be a figment of my imagination.  I was also told that my Uncle Fay would peel grapes for me.  (I may have been a wee bit spoiled, living with all those relatives!)  Fay was short for Fabian – his full name was Edwin Fabian.  A few of my dad’s siblings, as well as my dad, were called by their middle names.  We don’t know why.

My husband and I drove down to Green Street a few years ago so I could take some photos – it is still beautiful.  A typical Chicago two-flat – beautiful red brick with limestone accents.  I drew this picture by referencing old, as well as more recent, photos.  The front door has changed (I drew the old one from family photos), but other than that, it looks exactly the same!

8051 S. Green Street, drawn with graphite pencil and colored pencil.  I definitely need a better scanner – there is a yellow cast to the picture, the red bricks are not that bright and neither is my drawing!


Next stop, 91st and Ashland.

Navy Pier sketches

My husband and I celebrated his birthday last week by visiting Navy Pier. He was kind enough to wait while I did a little sketching. I sketched the prow (I think that is what it is called!) of the ship, “Windy.” The sky grew darker as I was sketching, and the boat was filling up with tourists. As I finished my sketch, the boat sailed away, and a soft rain started to fall.


We went up to the Crystal Garden, where I did the following sketch.  I am still debating if I will add watercolor to it.


Bar Mitzvah


As an Irish Catholic person, well, Irish anyway, I have never had the opportunity to attend a Bar Mitzvah.  This past Saturday, my husband and I attended our nephew’s son’s Bar Mitzvah.  I knew photographs were not allowed, so I sat in the back row and did a little sketching.  It was a beautiful ceremony, and David made his family proud.  We were honored to share in this major life event.  Mazel tov, David!


Drawing for Tea Time note cards

Tulip tea lo res

Hydrangea tea lo resI am having a drawing for a free set of ten “Tea Time” note cards.  Details are on my photography blog, The Photo Seen.  The note cards consist of two each of five different images, mostly Polaroid images, that have been manipulated to look like paintings (as in “Hydrangea Tea” shown below) or drawings (as in “Sunflower Tea”).  “Tulip Tea” (right) is a digital manipulation, with the tulips having the effect of watercolor painting.

Sadly, the Polaroid film that was used to make four of the five “Tea Time” cards is no longer being manufactured.  I do have a little of it left, and am looking forward to finding just the right project for it — and hoping that it will still be usable!

Meanwhile, do have a look at my other blog, The Photo Seen, which will tell you how to win a set of note cards.  Thank you!