- List five things about your hometown that you wouldn’t trade for the world
I was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois. It is the first suburb north of Chicago and borders the “North Shore” of Lake Michigan in our state. Evanston is home to Northwestern University, as well as many other wonderful schools, restaurants, parks, cultural centers and people.
This writing prompt is especially timely, as this summer will be my 20th High School Reunion. I have been helping out on the planning committee, which contributes to me feeling very nostalgic as I approach this milestone in my adulthood. Though I have had the chance to reconnect and keep in touch with many friends from my childhood in Evanston via Facebook, I am really looking forward to getting to see many of those I graduated with in 1993 in person at our reunion this July.
There are so many things about my hometown that I wouldn’t trade for the world, but here are five of them:
The Cultural and Ethnic Diversity
This is one of the main reasons my parents chose to settle and raise my older sister and I in Evanston. It was fun and interesting to grow up with friends and neighbors who came from a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities. It helped me to grow into the open minded and hearted adult and parent that I am today. My upbringing in Evanston and my exposure to people of many different backgrounds also influenced my husband Bob and my decision to move to our current neighborhood, called Beverly, on the southwest side of the city of Chicago, as it shares many of the characteristics that my first hometown has, including its cultural and ethnic diversity.
The Residential Architecture
In a day and age of suburban subdivisions, a.k.a. “instant neighborhoods,” with houses than are taller than the trees, I really appreciate that the homes in many parts of my hometown are unique, in addition to their beauty. They were built by architects with different styles and thus when you drive down most residential blocks in Evanston, you will not see one house after another that are variations on the same design. This is another shared characteristic between my childhood hometown of Evanston and my current hometown, in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, where Bob and I chose to settle and raise our family. We love that the two homes we have lived in, over the past ten years here (a Georgian and a remodeled bungalow with an addition), are not the same as every other house on our blocks.
I loved growing up in a community that bordered Lake Michigan! I spent many days every year, especially during the summer, playing, swimming and building sand castles at the beach. Some of my favorite memories of being by the lake are when I would go there by myself, when I was old enough and allowed to, to sit, look out at the water and contemplate life. I have always found something so peaceful about being by lakes, rivers and oceans and I miss not having one as close to our current home as I was used to during my childhood and adolescence. I am grateful that my family and I still get to visit Evanston often and when we do in the summertime, we often go to the beach, where I get to relive so many happy memories, as well as making new ones, with my children.
The Vibrant Faith Community
From the Catholic Newman Center where I grew up going to church and the parish that my parents are active in now to the many other Catholic, Protestant and Unitarian churches, as well as synagogues, I am proud of the many places and choices that Evanstonians have to practice their faiths. Going along with the cultural and ethnic diversity that is ever present in my hometown, I also love that there are so many vibrant and welcoming faith communities for Christians, Jews, Muslims and those who practice other faith traditions. For most of my formative years my family and I were active “associates” (kind of like parishioners) at Sheil Catholic Center, Northwestern’s Newman Center, which was a truly awesome place to learn about and grow in my Catholic faith.
I am also grateful to have had many friends growing up who had some differing beliefs than mine about religion and faith, as it was fascinating for us to discuss and to visit each other’s churches and synagogues. Learning about my friends’ faith traditions and teaching them about mine helped me to appreciate my own religion that much more. Our current hometown also has a vibrant faith community, but the big churches are predominately Catholic and there are not nearly as many, if any, other options for various faith traditions as in Evanston. I am glad that we have found such a wonderful home in our local Catholic church, St. Barnabas Parish, but do sometimes wish that our children had more friends who practiced other religions to learn from and grow up with, as I did.
My Parents Still Live There
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Though I wish we lived a bit closer to my parents sometimes, it is so awesome to be able to visit them often and get to spend time in Evanston. I love that our children get to see where I grew up and experience so much of what makes my hometown so wonderful. One of our kids and my favorite things to do in the summertime is take a local Metra train from our southwest Chicago neighborhood north into downtown Chicago, where we then walk a bit to another Metra train station and catch one that takes up to Evanston to spend the day, often much of it at the lakeshore, with my parents! It usually takes us about two hours each way, which depending on traffic can be as much as twice as long as it would be to drive there. But we all really enjoy the adventure of using public transportation and getting to start and end our day in our current neighborhood/hometown, while exploring our city and visiting my childhood hometown in between.
Tell me some of your favorite things about your hometown.
Kathy Benson is a bereaved and blessed mom, writer and group fitness instructor trying to live mindfully and find joy in the journey after dealing with secondary infertility and loss for five years. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and two living children.