wheeling, dekalb, illinois, america
As we near the end of another memorable sojourn in this part of the world in a few weeks there’s going to be a new member in the family—a sister is giving birth to her second child before this merry month ends. While we would not see them and their new baby until our return, I’m thrilled to cap this visit with this wonderful gift in mind.
My relatives are planning to move out of Wheeling soon—a Chicago suburb we consider home when we’re here in the US; their home for the last five years. Family’s getting bigger, the apartment’s getting smaller. They’re looking into a proper house somewhere far. The farther from the city the lower the price they say. So when we come back things are going to be different.
Just the other day, I strolled around the village’s forested area. I’m soaking in the last weeks of this visit before we leave town. The trees are all bare this time of the year and the coldness is unbearable; it gives me headache. Perhaps we should time our next visit around the summer months but I thought we get hot weather all year round back home; maybe spring or autumn but then again winter is good for me personally—makes me appreciate warm weather more—makes me less whiny during summer.
The other day I went out to buy bananas, sodas and grounded pork for torta; not far from the house a gaggle of geese started crossing the street. Cars stopped to let them pass. It was an amusing sight to see. I often kid my relatives if these birds could be eaten, if it’s legal I mean, they appear to be easy to grab and they’re rather large but sluggish birds. I’m sure the neighbors would have me jailed if I make adobo from these geeses; they love them here.
Nearby are these meandering shallow streams with floating mallards; like those geese they seem unaffected by below freezing weather. I could not tell if they’re wading or floating. The male wild ducks have attractive glowing iridescent feathers. I am certain that these are the same kind of mallards I used to observe in the river in Heidelberg; those vivid colored feathers and its patterns are similar.
When I met F. Sionil Jose two years ago, I reminded him about the story he wrote about his daughter’s family in DeKalb, some 70 miles from where we are now; another sleepy suburb whose claim to fame was being the place where barbwire was invented. He said it’s “very autobiographical”; asked if he enjoys his time in Illinois, he did not react. Which I take to mean that he does not want to talk about it. What he wrote in that Philippine Star column describes the quiet landscape you would usually come across around here: “We stroll out of the house into twilight, the western sky burnished with magenta and gold. Across the road, a small stream runs alongside. Until a couple of years ago, elegant willow trees lined its banks but they have all been cut and the banks of the stream are now bare. We cross over and walk along the bank of the stream at the other side; it is an asphalted footpath and to our left, a grassy meadow. It is now quite dark. Across the green expanse, the lights of a few houses shine. Across the stream, to our right, the indistinct shapes of houses, some of them lighted, their front porches aglow.”
America to me is represented by these placid Chicago suburbs where old and young generations of American families meet and live in amity. You go to shops and you’ll meet new immigrants still struggling to speak English but are treated exactly the same as those who had spent most of their lives stateside. Immigrants, legal or not, make a good living here—but only the bold and productive ones. The economy has been bad the past few years and there are wars the country is engaged on but you could hardly sense these troubles in here which is kinda weird in a way. These wars has slowly and continues to take its toll across the US. There’s this lovely church, St. Edna in Arlington Heights, that has a photo of a young soldier who died in Iraq. For such a small parish I could only imagine how it affected them. One has to wonder for how long could their government maintain its military engagements worldwide.
Everything changes when you get closer to the city—everything’s in a rush and people are less sociable. Here (and I’m sure in other Chicago suburbs too) whenever I go out for walks strangers greets and smile at you; the folks around here are chatty. I like this side of America but there’s the ugly side which is what we see on TV all the time. American media is similar to Filipino media—the ugliest and nastiest news about its people must be top news. Forget about good news—no one wants to hear that!
I can’t blame relatives who chose to make a living here; uprooting themselves from the land where they have deep ties. This is a painful process that most of us would probably not take; I admire their guts and strength. Hard work pays around here say one Filipino whom I met during the Pacquiao pay-per-view get together, “here you could buy anything for as long as you’re willing to work hard for it… no long vacation for now because I have this (his new house) to pay!”
“Oh, but ain’t that America for you and me, ain’t that America, something to see…”
– John Cougar Mellencamp
— December 2014