ILLINOIS-PEKIN TO OAK PARK

Cousin Marcia and I suffer the same fate.  We are the youngest of our siblings.  When the Petersens would trek from the East Coast to visit the grandparents in Illinois, the older folk would talk and eat and Marcia and I would flee and play outside.  She grew up to have a family and a farm and eventually grandchildren and a condo in Fort Myers, Florida with her husband and friend Darryl.  I grew up to have a perch on a creek less than five miles from the city; many creative obsessions, a passion for travel, a dear love with Christopher, and no children.  I think about all I’ve been graced with but also what I’ve missed because my family left the midwest. How life-changing it was for my parents to move away from all they knew out to the Philadelphia area in the 1950’s!  I grew up with an East Coast edge and midwestern sensitivity.  Community has become something I work at and choose rather than what is geographically around me.

I love reconnecting with Marcia at her lovely home in Pekin as well as down in Fort Meyers.  It feels as easy as it did when we were kids playing in the backyard of Nana’s house on Brainard in Naperville.  I chatted with her and her husband Darryl.

When I visit her house, I look at the art of Elmer Ekdahl (my great Uncle) and Florence Olander (my great aunt) that hangs on the walls.  He was a commercial artist and she dabbled in everything in the early 1900’s–art, photography, finally ending up in business.  I believe my mom got her artistic itch and her subsequent painting practices from growing up around these two.  I believe I got my late blooming interest in painting from growing up around my Mom’s oil paints and playing the board game Masterpiece.

After my visit with Marcia, I got to visit briefly with my Aunt Marguerite, who is amazing at 94 years old.

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After Pekin, I drove 3 hours northeast to Oak Park, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.  My friend, Leah, and her roommates graciously allowed me to stay for a few days while I visit with the near & dear in the Chicago area.  Leah has become a very important soul to me in the past few years.  I am reinvigorated after every encounter I have with this unique science/artist/social strategist human being.  Her space is filled with patterns.  (I love Matisse and Vuillard and Bonnard, who as painters fill their canvases with patterns.) Dinner and conversation with Leah was awesome.

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