Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I have to say that these returns to Chicago keep getting more and more difficult. I/we are really starting to miss that city. And I don’t think my involvement with Flickr has been helping. It’s one thing to read about things going on there, but it’s another to see all of the things you used to experience there. Everything is so familiar and I/we’ve got so much history there. Ten days wasn’t enough to satiate my appetite for the city this time. OK, the rain during most of our trip didn’t help since it cancelled or cut short many of our plans. There were so many things we wanted to see but didn’t have time for. Plus my favorite event in Chicago was taking place (the Chicago Air & Water Show), but we were unable to see it because it was raining.

There’s a chemistry there that I have not found and possibly will never find with our new home. I’m by no means knocking Montreal. It has so many pluses that I’ve elaborated on over the years. And Chicago is not nirvana either. We were reminded how difficult it can be getting around in the daytime during the week or weekends. It’s just a feeling of being at ease, being connected, knowing how things tick. Aspects that hopefully will come over time. Aspects that have made tons of progress since moving here.

But will I always be the outsider? Everytime the issues of a referendum or reasonable accommodation come up I can’t help but feel that I will. Not that voting “yes” for a sovereign Québec means a rejection of anglos or immigrants, but you have to wonder what is driving people to want it. Is it those who believe in the “pur laine”?

Back in Chicago I was the insider. I knew the history behind places. Heck, I had a history with places. I knew almost every building downtown being built and who was building it. And we were working on many of them. This was one of the first times that I didn’t. Plus it was difficult to not be part of it anymore. I’m a spectator again.

Montreal is still a better fit. I realize the difficulties and daily frustrations we would have to endure if we lived in Chicago as a young family. But that doesn’t stop my heart’s interest in Chicago.


~ by Frank on August 26, 2007.

11 Responses to “Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder”

  1. I somehow doubt it ever will. Chicago’s your hometown and it always will be; no mattter what you do, your relationship to it will always be unique.

    I’ve been having similar feelings about my hometown recently, and have been thinking about the parts of me that were indelibly marked there. I’ve also been thinking about my parents’ experience, and how every immigrant leaves a little bit of their heart in the place they came from. Must be something in the air…

  2. I still need to get out and visit that city. Up to now, I’m only familiar (and very at that) with the airport where I have made dozens of connections.

  3. I believe Vila is spot on about the hometown factor coming into play here, for you. Familiarity has an unmatched sweetness to it – especially when it stems from childhood – the places/faces we knew then become imprinted on us, like DNA. Nothing we can do about that.

    You’re certainly not alone in your dis-enchantment with this city, Frank. Sometimes I feel like I’m in an “arranged marriage” with Montreal. What I mean is that my rational mind extols all its merits, almost like a rosary chant (nightlife, great food, relatively low crime rate etc.,), and yet my heart doesn’t quite feel it and, since heart always trumps mind in the end, I’ll most likely re-locate at some point.

    That’s not to say that there’s a utopia somewhere. It becomes a question of choosing which problems are worth your while to deal with, and which are becoming far too ridiculous to put up with…

    That’s just my opinion anyway.

  4. I had a piece touching on this very issue recently. There’s the hometown factor, and this is one great hometown you have. That, and Montreal seems to somehow invite a kind of love/hate relationship — it’s practically built on an endless list of bipolarities: winter/summer, anglo/franco, west/east, 514/450…

    So what if/when we leave Montreal, like a lot of immigrants are bound to do? It’s a city that gives out so much, but takes so much in return. Wouldn’t you miss the thrill of navigating this sea of contradictions?

  5. Wish I could have met you when you were here, exploring my adopted city. As for me, I’ve lived in the Big Potato for over ten years now, and cannot imagine myself anywhere else. Sure, I’ll occasionally complain about this or that, weather usually, but other than perhaps Vancouver, no other city (in North America) fits me as well as Chicago.

    Of course, if I had unlimited financial wherewithal, that would be an entirely different tale, but the odds of that occurring are slim…..

  6. Interesting to see some less than positive feelings come out about the city.

    After I thought about it a bit more, it was that I was missing the proximity of family and long-time friends also. Not that I haven’t met great people here in Montreal, but with a young family, relationships progress much more slowly since it is only during the in-between times.

    Seth: I’m sorry we couldn’t meet up. Hopefully it will work next time.

    If I had the financial wherewithal, we’d live in Chicago in the fall, Montreal during the summer, Paris in the spring, and Hawaii during the winter.

  7. We talked a little when you were here about where home is. (Great to see you all, by the way!) You can take the man out of Chicago, but you can never take Chicago out of the man. It is and always will be an integral, primal part of you. But as you move through your life, and find a haven and a home in Montreal, you can still keep the roots of your heart and mind in Chicago but continue to explore your new home in Montreal. You have the ability to reach that far. Montreal is a great place to raise your children, just as Chicago would be. Your children will reap the benefits of knowing these two cities well, and their base connections and foundation will be you and your lovely bride.

    Sure, there’s a disconnect because of proximity. But know that were you to return, those connections would resurface and re-establish quickly. You adapt well to new things, as does your family. The goal is to keep that flow and flexibility going, and you will have the unparalleled privilege of calling two fantastic places home. :o)

    “If I had the financial wherewithal, we’d live in Chicago in the fall, Montreal during the summer, Paris in the spring, and Hawaii during the winter.”

    I wouldn’t mind that either. :o)

  8. I share in your disconnection mainly because a big part of my family is there not here anymore. I am here, at ‘home’, but part of what makes this home is there.
    So as I told you the night before you left, home is being with the ones you love, your family, and as much as you may miss this concrete jungle and the experiences you remember, cherish your wonderful family. It is the true source of happiness just as you were for me those many youthful years.

  9. As another Chicagoan transplant to Montreal (well Englishman transplant to Chicago to Montreal) I understand the feeling of disconnection. We have been here for 28 months and I lived in Chicago for 9 1/2 years. And every time we go back there is a feeling of comfort and knowledge that I still miss in Montreal. There’s a number of things I prefer about Montreal but in some ways I’d certainly be happier back there. But I remember what the first couple of years in Chicago felt like coming from England, and I think the adjustment period is naturally a long one. And I think as you get older, psychology causes it to take longer.

  10. Cathy: Thanks for the words. I have the feeling the honeymoon of moving to Montréal has been wearing off lately. Or maybe it’s just that juggling the many things in life has been wearing on me as of late. And part of me was looking for a bit of escape. Both are great cities and have both pluses and minuses. The return trips home have been great because it’s like distilling many of the good things of a year into one week. I guess this post was part of coming to terms with this long-distance relationship with family, friends, and city.

    Dad: I kinda went through the same thing before we left. And now when we visit there are fewer and fewer people still there. Yes, cities (and some friends) will always change, but family will remain constant. I’ve learned to cherish the more limited time we have together.

    Daniel: It’s interesting. When I was younger the first couple years were difficult at new places like work or school. Then it got easier as I grew into them. But the move to Montréal was quite positive at the beginning. Then after a while it became a mix of getting more difficult on some fronts while easier on others. I think the difference here had to do with my expectations before moving here. But I agree that the adjustments take longer as we age. I guess in some respects that staying comfortable with change can keep us younger.

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