For a time my daughter and her husband lived on a corner in an apartment in Wrigleyville, a neighborhood in Chicago. It was a busy area right across the street from a tavern where locals always seemed to be celebrating something. The elevated train system was only steps away so the clattering noise of mass transit was just one of the everyday sounds that echoed through the open windows of their place. It sat on the top floor providing an excellent view of the shops and eateries nearby. It was an old school residence without an elevator or air conditioning. The walk from the ground floor on the steep steps provided an unadvertised perk of daily exercise. The apartment was small but quite lovely with its polished wooden floors and windows that allowed the sun to create a homey warmth. It had the kind of character that comes from tradition and age. My daughter somehow made do with the tiny kitchen that barely provided enough room for two people to stand. It lead to a small private stoop and a fire escape that fascinated me. Somehow it felt like a setting right out of a novel.
I am a creature of the wide open spaces of Texas who had only read of multistory housing in crowded urban settings. When I first heard where my daughter was living I secretly worried for her safety. Upon visiting her domain and actually walking through the neighborhood near her place I became enchanted. Everything about Wrigleyville was quite wonderful, even the raucous noise that filled the air each evening as revelers relaxed in the local bar across the street. I most enjoyed sitting at her dining table in a corner room with windows overlooking the expanse. I imagined being there day after day and finding inspiration for my writing. I was intoxicated by the sheer adventure of observing so much humanity.
The area was called Wrigleyville because the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team stood proudly at the center of the residences and businesses. It was an easy walk from the apartment to the field so of course I wanted to attend one of the games but my first visit was in the winter so I had to wait until my return in the summer. I had no idea that I would fall in love with the Cubs when I first entered the stadium on a warm afternoon. Everything about the experience was wondrous. It seemed to me to be what baseball was supposed to be like. The fans were all decked out in their gear and the place was packed. The hot dogs were a gourmet delight so unlike the plastic almost inedible ones that I had tried back home. People sat on the tops of nearby buildings to catch the action without benefit of sound. The crowd was happy, cheering and totally into the game. I can’t recall a single time that I have had so much fun at a baseball game. Forevermore the Cubs would be my favorite team with the exception of my Houston Astros.
I heard all about the curse that had once been placed on the Cubs by a local tavern owner who became incensed when he and his goat were turned away from the stadium back in 1948. I tend to be a believer in such things since I am sometimes a bit of a jinx myself. I’ve been known to turn the victorious tide of a sporting event just by my mere presence. I take such matters quite seriously. Somehow the whole idea that the Cubs were the victim of black magic seemed to be confirmed a few years back when they were on the road to finally ending their drought when a fluke play shattered their dreams. I just happened to be visiting my daughter at that time and watched in shock as a fan reached out from the stands and caught a fly ball before one of the players had the opportunity to force an out. I vividly recall how stunned we were as we realized that the Cub’s dreams had gone up in flames.
The apartment where my daughter lived caught on fire one evening. One of the residents had fallen asleep while burning a candle which eventually touched off a blaze that filled the entire building with smoke and flames. Luckily everyone escaped with only minor injuries but the firefighters had to vent the roof to control the burn and almost everything that my daughter owned was ruined by falling debris, smoke, and water. She was expecting twins at the time and decided that perhaps it was time to move to a place with more green space and so she left Wrigleyville but not without a heavy heart. We would all think back on that lovely place for years to come and reminisce about those Cubs games and the walks down tree lined avenues.
Eventually she and her family moved back to Texas taking memories with them that never grew dim. Year after year we all rooted for the Cubs but saw our hopes dashed again and again. Then came the news that they were going to the World Series. Prognosticators boldly pronounced that they were the underdogs in the matchup and I feared that something would surely go wrong in their quest to end the curse and become victorious. Slowly but surely they proved everyone wrong in one of the most exciting battles in decades, going back and forth with the Cleveland Indians until it was game number seven and they had to lay everything that they had on the line.
I had butterflies in my stomach all last night and did my best not to somehow influence the outcome of the game with my thinking. I busied myself and tried not to become too overjoyed when they held the lead for so long. When the game tied up near the end I held back the negative thoughts that clouded my mind. A delay of the game due to rain made me want to panic but I instead remained calm. I wondered if there had ever before been such a build up of tension in such a major contest. Then it happened. The Cubs won the pennant. After one hundred eight years they had finally done it.
I can almost hear the cheering in the tavern that still stands across from where my daughter once lived. I can see the smiles on the faces of the people of Chicago as they ride the trains to work and school. I want to walk down the street and celebrate with them. I want to eat a hotdog and wear a blue shirt. In a time filled with so much negativity and uncertainty it feels so good to have a grand reason to shout with joy. The Cubbies have shown us all how to keep the faith. I for one rejoice.