Fifty years ago I was 24 years old. I was a college graduate and had two years of experience teaching English at a small town high school. Early in 1973 I accepted a position as an editorial researcher for The World Book Encyclopedia, located right in the middle of downtown Chicago, and I needed to find an apartment fast. After accepting the job offer I had 4 days to find a place, move from Wisconsin to Chicago, and get ready to start a new career.
Mim came to the rescue. I was staying with my childhood friend June for a couple days while I searched for an apartment. My first evening I went with June and her husband Arden (a seminary student) to a neighborhood Bible Study. Mim was there. When the Bible Study was finished, she came over to introduce herself to me. When she heard of my plight, she immediately invited me to share her small apartment with her until I could find a place of my own. I never left. February 1, 2023 is our 50th anniversary of living together!
To celebrate this 50-year milestone we took a 4-day getaway to Chicago. We drove through all three of our former neighborhoods, visited with a few of our friends who still live in Chicago, and ate at two of our favorite restaurants. We saw lots of changes in the city – some good, some not so good; and we also saw that some things are still the same – some good, some not so good.
One of the most heart-warming highlights of our golden anniversary getaway was a short visit with our 104-year-old next door neighbor Ruth. During our last 13 years in Chicago (1979-1992) Mim and I lived on a block of brick two-flats, all built about 1920. Ruth has lived in the first floor of her two-flat her whole life. Her parents and sister have all passed away, as well as her aunt who had lived in the upstairs flat. At 104, Ruth doesn’t hear and see very well, but her mind is as sharp as ever, and she still lives there. We had a delightful visit with her, remembering our time as neighbors, as well as learning her perspective on the world we live in today.
One of the most inspiring highlights of our getaway was a nice long visit with our friend Ellen Kogstad. Ellen is the founder of New Moms, a ministry to young moms and their kids. Forty years ago, in 1983, Ellen purchased diapers and formula and began distributing them from the trunk of her car to young moms in her neighborhood who desperately needed help. Ellen’s vision was to create an organization that could provide the support these young moms needed. That included more than just diapers and formula. It included emotional and parenting support, as well. Back in the early years of New Moms, Ellen asked me to serve on the board as treasurer. I was honored to be a part of this organization and to do what I could to help turn Ellen’s vision into reality.
Over the past 40 years, New Moms has grown into a ministry that also provides housing, job skills, and personal coaching. The organization currently has 60 employees, two apartment buildings with 58 apartments exclusively for young moms and their kids, and a candle-making factory (Bright Endeavors) used to teach job skills. Ellen spent about five hours with us, touring all three buildings, introducing us to several of her co-workers, and sharing the future vision of New Moms. (Check out the New Moms website for more information: https://newmoms.org)
The culinary highlights of our 4-day getaway included half-pound cheeseburgers at Moody’s Pub (our favorite neighborhood bar), barbecued ribs at Calo’s Italian Restaurant (a place we used to frequent for their Thursday night ribs special), and hot fudge sundaes at Margie’s Candies and Ice Cream Parlor. (The Buffalo, our favorite ice cream parlor, no longer exists.) The 1974 picture shows Mim and me and a friend outside of Moody’s Pub.
One of the most disappointing things was to see that the clinic where Mim used to work is now a vacant building that has been burned out. Fortunately, Mim still has good memories of being part of a team that worked together to provide health care services in the 1980s to the people of that economically-deprived community. And I have good memories of serving on the board of that non-profit clinic, as well. That connection is how I met Ellen Kogstad and became involved with New Moms.
A 50-year anniversary is a good time to reflect on what has happened over all those years. For Mim and me, Chicago covered 20 of the years. It was good to be able to return to Chicago for a few days, visit with old friends, and go to places that were significant to us during our first 20 years together. The 30 years that followed have been spent in Wisconsin, making new friends, working new jobs, and trying out new restaurants.
I don’t think Mim regrets inviting me to share her little apartment until I could find a place of my own. I don’t think I ever will find one. Sharing our lives together is too much fun.
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