A Quaint Little Spot in The Windy City

By Rachel Tipton
 

Back in the year 1900, my two ancestors from Slovakia made the trek across the globe, landing in the Windy City. I often wonder what life was like in Chicago those first few years after they arrived. They were 26 and 17, had married over in Velky Lipnik, and were sent over to the U.S. before conceiving any children. I often wonder if they lived and loved before their first child was born a year and half later. I hope they were passionate along the Magnificent Mile and spent some time enjoying the “American Dream” before coming to Cambridge, Ohio after their first three children were born.

I don’t know anything about them really. I have a few pictures and I know my great-great-grandfather never learned English. He had been in America 47 years and still spoke Rusyn, a form of Russian and Slovakian. I do know he came here for a better life but worked all his adult days in a steel mill, and that he and his wife separated before the 1930 census. My great-great-grandmother was living as a boarder in a house with a bunch of others working in a glass factory. She lost one baby at birth, one at the age of 16, and my great-grandmother, Anna, to childbirth at the age of 35. Talk about hard times. She then was forced in her mid 50s into some sort of institution in Columbus, Ohio for the rest of her life.

So what’s my point in laying this all out for you? It shows you that life has always been hard for everyone. I’m sure their living conditions were not up to par like ours; they may have gone without proper clothing and food. We have it so easy compared to them, but we still get lost in the unfairness of it all. We can’t seem to stay happy or content for one single day.

I thought I had life all figured out, or at least according to the book I wrote on how to keep your mind happy, focused, and content. But I have relapses sometimes and can’t help out of boredom to wish I were somewhere else — either to go back in the past and change it or live in the future under different circumstances. 

A fantasy is making false associations with the present moment and gaining pleasure from it, and I seem to be a victim of this lately. I often wish I could go back to the last time I was in Chicago over a decade ago and make Chicago memories just like I hope my ancestors did. But they passed on years before I was born, so I’m wondering does a memory truly die? So sad to think about the good times I had that are now gone as time has taken all but memories, but death will wipe the slate clean. Cheers to a quaint little spot in the Windy City where my heart still beats and I can breathe. I didn’t realize I was walking around numb all these years until the other day. Thanks Chicago, for helping me feel alive again.
 


Rachel Roman Tipton is the author of Cheat Sheet to Heaven, a book about our thoughts and how to change them. She wrote it when she came to the realization that she no longer wanted to feel unhappy, depressed, sad, or lonely. 

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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 18: Readers Write

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