Two Women Leaving Home


Two women leave home.

Back before their last names were Obama and Blagojevich. Michelle and Patti were two little girls on very similar playgrounds in two very different Chicago neighborhoods.

Michelle, the smart girl. From the South Side. South Shore. Patti the tough girl. From the Northwest Side. Both from strong, dinner around the table every night, families. Families of what we used to call “the middle class.” Parents who paid attention. Parents who loved.

In 2008 Michelle getting ready to leave her elegant home in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago. In the shadow of desolate poverty, a home bought from the money her husband earned writing a book. Michelle, her two girls and her husband sitting on the steps of their home. An alternate take from the 1950’s show “Leave It To Beaver.” Michelle steeped in the swirling musical hard working culture of Chicago’s African American South Side, is asked, “What will you miss most about your life here in Chicago. And she answers, “I’ll miss shopping at the Target Store on Roosevelt Road.”

So with memories of that time she and her big eared strange gangly boyfriend Barry went to get that ice cream cone at the Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors Shop in Hyde Park, Michelle leaves home on an adventure of a lifetime. Off to live where Jackie Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary Todd Lincoln lived. That was Michelle leaving home. Knowing some day she’d return.

Three years later. Patti isn’t just leaving home. She’s the real estate agent selling her home in the tree lined quiet streets of Chicago’s Old Ravenswood Neighborhood. Her husband, also in politics, but no more. So there are money issues. Patti does what she has always done. She muscles through.

The TV cameras offering free publicity because this home sale is also a news story. Patti describes the $1.1 million dollar home. Patti remembers a Northwest Side dance. Once beneath this same October moon. Her boyfriend Rod was funny. He was handsome. She was in love. And as the TV shot pitched as a news story is there to be engineered by her to sell the home, she’s asked, “What’s it like for you, having to sell the house?”

And in her answer, the tone of cold blue steel that made her so tough on that playground comes through. It took a fraction of a second. She showed that steel and said, “Rod and I have moved lots of times. But this is the only home our girls have known.” She speaks of her daughters. The toughness shows. And then in a blink she’s back describing the home.

Patti leaving the home and not knowing where she’s going.

At the exact same time Michelle, now sitting deep inside Mary Todd Lincoln’s Old White House, decides she’s going shopping at Target. Fuck it. She’s going to Target.

So the emails are shot off to the press office in a well-practiced drill, a photographer is assigned, and a convoy is rolled out to transport First Lady One. Commentators start to ramp up. A verbal barrage is orchestrated. All for the same lady who once said what she’d miss most when she left home in Kenwood, what she’d miss most was shopping at a Target Store. She said it. And she actually meant it.

Michelle’s convoy moves out, a flurry of black tinted glass SUV’s that stop traffic. On the way to Target.

While the TV cameras go dark on Patti’s pitch to sell her house.

Patti takes a breath. Squares her shoulders. She has a sister, Deb, who will be over later tonight. A Dad who is fierce in his love for his kids. A memory of a Mom who knew what it meant to make a home and taught her daughters well. Patti is tough. She always has been.

She’s leaving her home.

Michelle will, many years from now, leave Roslyn Carter’s White House and go home back to Kenwood. Back to Chicago.

One women leaving home and then going back home.

One woman just leaving home. Destination unknown.

So both listen. Listen hard. And oh so faintly under the same October moon, shining over all of Chicago, comes the strains of an old British rocker named Nick Lowe. A singer neither of them even knew.

Word has it that he once wrote and sang a song called “I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll.” And now, after all these years he is singing a song called “House for Sale.”

And even before they listen they are amused by that. If only for a moment. But that moment means a lot.

Two women leaving home. Tough women.

Who will find home.

Again.

2 Responses to “Two Women Leaving Home”

  1. Ted Schneider Says:

    Roger,
    It is amazing how similar these two women’s paths seem to have been and the twists and turns that each eventually took and where they each ended up. Life is truly a series of choices, should I go left, right, back up a bit or forge ahead. Do I say ‘yes’, ‘no’ or just wait for a better deal and say ‘maybe’. Unfortunately, we never know the alternate endings, only the ending based on the choices we made and the path we took.
    Ted

  2. Paulhaider74 Says:

    Roger, this is wonderful. Oddly enough, I have always had a crush on both Michelle Obama and Patti BlowDryAnItch. Obviously, Michelle married the better man, although both women gave birth to two daughters; we all feel terrible for Patti’s innocent daughters and their tough future.
    Paul Haider, Chicago

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