Some of you raised some interesting points in the comment section of the last post, which I plan to go back and address. But for now I want to try to shed some light on how I feel about Detroit (and the surrounding areas). By the way, if you have an inkling of where exactly we may be moving, I will just ask you now to please not mention it by name on the blog for the sake of my family’s privacy, either to ask me if you are right or to just drop the name… I would prefer to keep the exact location private, at least for now, and I hope you will respect that…
My love for Detroit is somewhat akin to some people’s love of their first car. It may have been a beater, with dents and rust, but they will always look back fondly on that car and what it represented to them. Similarly, I will always hold an unnatural love in my heart for Detroit (and yes, even Oak Park).
Forgive me if these places mean nothing to you, but they mean a lot to me. I learned to drive on Woodward Ave. I went on dates to Rudy’s Chicken Lips. My friends and I went to Belle Isle on hot summer nights to sit on our car hoods with the rest of the ghetto kids who had nothing else to do but watch each other watching each other. We scoped out houses in Sherwood Forest and pretended one day that we would all be successful something-or-others and buy houses there, and then we went home to whatever crappy housing projects or lower-middle-class suburbs we really lived in and called each other and talked til all hours of the night. I went to divey bars in Cass Corridor to hear my friend’s band play and another friend’s poetry slam and see another friend’s art exhibit at a gallery he started. I remember the magic of driving to visit someone on the East Side, even though I was a West Side girl and as a point of pride we never actually crossed Woodward…
We skipped school at Taco Bell in Ferndale and shopped at Northland Mall back when Swatch watches were cool, but only the white kids in the suburbs had them (read: not me or any of my friends 😉 ). We thought we owned Oak Park park, but only certain sections (we weren’t greedy, and we never would have monopolized toys that little kids needed), and we definitely owned the library (but only the nerdy ones of us, and the ones who had no way home after school. I had my first kiss, my first crush, and my first of pretty much everything in either Oak Park or Detroit proper, and there is no memory that shaped who I am as a person that doesn’t harken back to some place in Michigan.
There is nothing about me that doesn’t carry the stamp of my home state. I am every bit a Midwest girl, from my speech patterns to my mannerisms to my expectations of other people’s behavior. And the West Coast just has never lit my fire.
My kids were all born in either Detroit or a suburb of Detroit, and now like baby turtles it seems they are finding their way back to the place they were first launched.
I have missed Detroit like a Victorian lover missed her beloved. Chastely but pervasively. I have yearned for it and idealized it and built it up to be more than it is. I have become more of a Detroiter in Seattle than I ever was in Detroit. I have bought shirts proclaiming my Detroit-i-ness and renounced ties to Seattle at the slightest provocation (sorry, Seattle). I have forgotten my early happiness with the simple pleasures of Seattle and vastly over-rated the delights of Detroit. But that’s how it is with past loves. They are always especially ensconced in your heart.
But truly I am Detroit and Detroit is me. We have been separated for too long and it’s time for a reunion. I need to be where I am the most wholly myself, for better or for worse. Each of us has a foundational element to who we are, and if that foundation is somehow corrupted then our essence does not shine its brightest.
It’s time for me to shine again.
I hope Michigan will welcome me home 🙂