In 1973 my father made the decision to move our family from Elburn, a town in the cornfields of Illinois, to a city in the far west reaches of Chicago’s suburbia. The move hurt because I was sixteen going on seventeen at the time. My brothers and I had finally, in some ways, adjusted to the move from Pennsylvania to Illinois three years before, in 1970. In that move, we’d all given up the friendships we’d built back east. My oldest brother was in transition to go to college that year. My next eldest brother was headed into his senior year in high school.
But my father only found work out in Illinois. So we yanked up everything we loved and toured together in a 1967 Buick Wildcat across Ohio and Indiana and arrived at the tall house in Elburn. It was a grand place, for sure, with three full stories and stained glass windows above the spiraling wood stairs that led to the second floor. Above that was an A-framed attic that we used for our table tennis playing. It was a passion for all of us, among many other sports.
We left that behind to move into a small split-level house in St. Charles. It was never admitted to us, but the motives behind that move were primarily financial. My father had gotten involved in a network marketing scheme and pumped a bunch of money into it. Surely he had our family interests in mind, trying to make more dough than he could as a sales engineer. But it failed, and we all jammed into the split-level to make the best of it.
The running route
From there, I developed a series of running routes that circled through St. Charles and Geneva. One of theme circled through the cities and caught a two-mile stretch that converted from 3rd Street in St. Charles to Anderson Boulevard in Geneva. The road was wider than most, and actually held remnants in its surface from the trolley car system that once coursed through the Tri-Cities along the Fox River. As a result, the road was paved and repaved over the years, and held many tarsnakes in its surface as a result.
At seventeen years old you have little idea what the future will hold. It was enough each day just to gather the focus to run seven miles, much less think about the homes you were passing or the lives of the people inside. Yet a home on that loop would one day become a residence where I moved my own family in 1985. My son was born while we lived in that home. My daughter too. Those were precious years.
But just out of college and living as a bachelor in 1981, I’d moved into a Coach House at 741 1/2 Illinois Street, also along that same running route. I’d run that seven-mile loop at least once a week and used the wide-open Boulevard as a good place to do what I called Unlimited Surges, long sections of hard running that exceeded the exertion even of fartlek training. That was a key method in building race-level fitness.
Refuge from danger
The Geneva house at 421 Anderson Boulevard also served as a refuge one day. At least the garage in back did. While training on that 7-mile loop one Saturday afternoon, I ran through downtown Geneva. There were a group of sluggard kids hanging out in front of the movie theater and one of them stuck out his leg in a half-hearted attempt to trip my. I turned around while running and flipped them all the bird. A big guy jumped up and came after me, but I easily outran him.
Then I heard a car start up, and a yellow Datsun came roaring after me. They were yelling threats and hanging out the window claiming they were going to kill me. So I cut across the Jewel parking lot and ran along the half-buried railroad tracks that led to a back street. But the Datsun caught up with me and a guy jumped out and threw a knife in my direction. I could hear it skitter across the asphalt and lodge in some grass near my feet. So I ran.
When I found an alley I ran through it to avoid being seen. Halfway down the alley a garage door was open. I ducked inside and closed the door. The Datsun pulled past and I waited a while to make sure they were gone. Then I opened the garage door and came out. The owner of the house was standing there. I explained what had happened and he just nodded. Then I closed the door and left.
Years later when we moved into the home on Anderson Boulevard, I realized that our garage was the same one I’d used to escape from those crazed kids in the Datsun.
We lived in that home for eleven years. I watched them pave over the street several times and finally take out the trolley rails entirely. Yet the two manhole covers out front of the house remained, and they were often surrounded by tarsnakes in a pattern that made them look like nipples on two large breasts. It all seemed to fit together with the mystery of youth and sex and change and life.
That house was where I truly grew into manhood, but ultimately it became too small for our family. Twenty years ago in 1996 our family moved to a home in Batavia that I still own. However, the time has come again to be moving on. A new phase of life is coming on fast and like all those other times I’ve moved (and lost count, actually) there are both fears and joys mixed together. It’s a fact of life in general. We’re all just moving on.