goodbye Hyde Park

As I write, I'm surrounded by half-packed boxes of books and the chaos of our dismantled home. Where there were photos, there are only empty nails. Friends come through the house, sizing up our furniture to see what will fit in their home. Freda has been adopted out, half-used medicines left in a plastic bag outside my neighbor's door. Each time a friend comes to take something else off our hands, I am both relieved and grieved--I want all that we have to be used and loved, and yet it feels so strange that it won't be used by us. As friends struggle out the door with our sofa and bookshelves I want to call after them, "We're not dead yet."

And yet this does feel so like dying. But the death now creates a way to the new life to come. It is as inescapable as the meal-less flight and the luggage and the juggling of children and shoes and laptops at the airport security checkpoints. None of this is pleasant, yet all of it is leading toward something good.

Being back in Hyde Park has been more emotional than I expected. When I was in Kona, I could barely feel anything for this place that we'd lived for five years. I could scarcely convince myself that a place so different actually existed. When Chicago friends would send photos of the snow-covered fire escapes I would look out my own window at the blue Pacific and waving palm trees and try to remember what it was like to nest in for the winter, the hum of the radiators, sipping coffee in the glider before my icons as the snow fell outside, the windows rattling against the howling wind.

It is strange being here in all sorts of ways I could not have anticipated. First comes the realization of what we had here, as I walk with my kids and bump into friends at every turn. Dare I generalize and say that most everyone is Hyde Park is interesting? A friend here shows me her husband's office, his photos of Mars and the blue light of a nuclear reaction. She gestures casually at the blue photo, saying, "If you're familiar with Nuclear Physics, you'll know what that is."

And it was, ultimately, the engaging conversations and friendships here that kept us afloat through the challenges of the early part of John's Ph.D. program. It was a gift, also, to mother my children in this context, and coming back I realize that so many of my early memories of Anna only become available as I meander along the sidewalk here.

Yesterday Anna begged to ride her scooter to the botany pond on the University of Chicago campus. There, so many memories surfaced. We came here for a summer when I was pregnant with her, and then moved here when she was less than a year. I can see her tottering down these streets here, stopping to examine every discarded bottle top and candy wrapper, forcing me to see the world in a whole new way.

When my friend Ser was here the other week, she said something that expressed some of what I felt on my bittersweet return to Hyde Park. She said, "It was here that we were birthed into motherhood." Hyde Park was a place of so many beginnings for me, as a mom, as a writer, as the wife of a new priest. Some of it was so painful, so far from what I expected or imagined, and yet now I see clearly--it was all gift, all of it.

And the other day, at Bonjour bakery, while munching on a chocolate-covered strawberry, Anna lost her second tooth. None of this seemed accidental, especially as I contemplate all the pieces of her childhood spent here. How right that she lost her first in Kona, her second in Hyde Park.

There will always be a little bit of the child Anna in both places. So on our last night together in Hyde Park John and I snuck out and buried that second tooth in the back yard. As we buried it we thanked God for all that had come to pass in this place and asked for all good things for our neighbors and for our years ahead in Kona, and we thanked God for this tooth, and for our beginnings as parents which will always be buried here.