A kick in the teeth

Today was a hard day. Nobody died, fortunately, but there was a sudden and unexpected loss, just the same. And the finality of it makes it that much harder to deal with. But it must be dealt with.

I’ve lived a few blocks away from a park in Chicago for a dozen years now. It’s an awesome park, and one that my kids have grown up with. And perhaps the best part of the park was the field house, which seemed like a moment frozen in time.

I’ll give an example of what I mean by that. The field house was built in the late 1920s, which is when my neighborhood turned from farmland to city streets. The Chicago race riot of 1919 was enough for many Chicagoans to move to the land north of downtown. So as the people came in and built homes and roads and schools, a park was created as well. The fieldhouse had lots of wood carvings with a Native American theme, to remember the Potawatomi tribes that once lived in this area.

The construction of the park’s field house left some historical remnants behind, which were displayed under glass in its lobby. A newspaper speculating that “The Jazz Singer” was nothing that would change movies was my favorite one. I would look at it sometimes, while waiting to pick my daughter up from a dance class in the field house. I wondered if the person who wrote that ever publicly acknowledged how wrong they really were.

But I’ll never get a chance to look at these artifacts ever again. The field house caught fire and burned today, and a large gaping hole left in the roof, to say nothing of the charred mess on the inside,  suggests that rebuilding is years away, if it happens at all. And my teen-aged daughter, who had taken voice lessons there as recently as three days ago, broke into tears at the sight of the building’s remains. A piece of her life had literally gone up in smoke, and I comforted her as best I could. But I couldn’t bring it back, as I know she wanted me to do.

The picture above dates to 2007. The field house is on the left, and it had stood there for as long as she and I could remember. Today, the two of us received a stinging reminder of how everything changes in life. I say that a lot in this space, but today I realized–with much regret–that this applies to anything and everything.

If you have someplace like this in your own life, please do me a favor and take a good look around the next time you’re there. It probably won’t be the last time you ever see it, but if something should ever happen to it, you’ll be glad you did.

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