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River made green

We are just finishing the first week in Lent 2014 and the themes and reflections of Hosea’s “wilderness” and “coming home” are floating through my daily quiet meditations.

It also brings a look back at the wilderness and seeking home time for me during a major life style change for our family in the summers between 1976 and 1977.  Following a long period of not easy to make decisions and agreement, we sold our home and moved from our twelve year residence in Lexington Kentucky, with our two young daughters, to the outskirts of Chicago.

Tom was on  a one year leave of absence from the corporation where he was employed, with the ability to return to it, if he so chose. We lived on our savings and I sought a job while he remained at home with the children and devising a new way to earn a living.

Seeking a job — actually my second job since our arrival in Illinois — brought me to downtown Chicago, via the El train line from our rented home in the Elmwood Park subdivision, where I began working in the famed Wrigley Building at 400 N. Michigan Avenue, the Gateway to Chicago’s Magnificent Mile of high-power shopping.

GP_Wrigley-Cropped-Hero-Shot-150x150

While that could seem somewhat on the romantic side, it was actually more reminiscent of what a wilderness would be to me. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! ” 2 Corinthians 5:17

True, we were attempting to bring newness about, but there were plenty of things in the old way of life passed away that I truly grieved. Much of the old was perfectly comfortable. I was a stay-at-home mom, working only temporary hours here and there that fit the children’s schedule. We had a home family life and a community of friends that nurtured my day.

Now, I got on this creaky, iron-squealing motor coach, whisked into a city, far away (a world away, it seemed to me) from my children in their school lives.  This was not something I felt comfortable with and it definitely  would be temporary.  The job just provided small weekly additional income but I think my mindset was that “somebody” in this family needed to have a job.

But the Wrigley Building was something else! I was always impressed walking through the golden, brass turning doors and into the marble and granite hallway lobby and flooring. I can still hear the echos of high heeled shoes heading for the gold-plated elevators, which had real, live operators bringing you up and down from the tower floors above.  I felt I was a pretender in their midst — they were the ones doing the real work. I was passing time and trying to either get back to something familiar or ahead to something better and new.  Either of those would do fine.

Wrigley Bldg Entrance Photograph: Susan Heffron Hajec

North Tower LobbyRenovated 2012 Photo: Chicago Tribune

The Wrigley Building is a Chicago original. Cab drivers need no address to get you to the famed, long standing location, along side the Chicago River. World -class business, government, legal, high tech and financial centers buzz with the hurry and scurry of men and women traversing the power paths of their careers.

The Wrigley Building was constructed between 1921 to 1924 and it was the William Wrigley Jr. Company corporate headquarters until 2012. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and it, perhaps, was long-overdue for the honor of City of Chicago Landmark which it became in 2012.

While the exterior of the Wrigley Building is truly magnificent to behold, and properly placed at the threshold of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the offices became outdated enough to necessitate a total make-over in order to attract high-paying modern clientele, who would also require tech, fitness and shopping savvy within its environment.

I remember that even for me, the office I worked in seemed rather antiquated. And actually a lot of the people working in the office, from my early 30 years of age perspective, seemed like grandfather  and grandmother generation.

When I worked there in the old days of the mid- ’70s, it was prior to any modern invention of even the personal computer, not to mention all the tablets and iphones, which have even outdated the fax. which was not evident in my day, and now is losing ground in the “efficiency” key-sent data file workplace.

So, this update came, with the sale of the building in September 2011 to a consortium led by an investment firm, BDT Capital Partners. And the landmark building has been transformed into a state-of-the-art business environment with a new retail component.

As I write this, we are a few short days away from March 17, the Irish feast of St Patrick. One of my best memories of working in the Wrigley Building, was that I saw the already green Chicago River turned more green for the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and its city parade. We looked down upon the river from high above out of one of the office complex windows.

Chicago RiverPhotograph by Susan Heffron Hajec

I remember it looking distinctly more green than this photograph taken in 2002.  This parade in March 1977 was celebrated without the 48th Mayor of Chicago, Richard Joseph Daley, who had died on December 20, 1976. He had held his 21 year tumultuous term as mayor and 23 years as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Committee right up to his death.

I was not focused on politics at that time. My sight was more immediate. Like the updating of the Wrigley Building, we also revamped and moved on into a life back in our home state of Michigan by June 1977, entering a business venture as owners of a country golf course outside Gobles Michigan.

Not exactly out of the wilderness, as time would tell,  but a place where our family stayed together and grew, working right along with us in both the golf and cross country ski business. Our daughters went on successfully to higher education, professional careers and families of their own.

Tom and I continued to build our careers and interests as well.

We have, in the words of  Hosea “lived deeply our new lives.”  Moment by moment. Magnificent mile by magnificent mile.

Magnificent Mile

Photos Credits for non-labeled photos:  Wikipedia Chicago Tribune and Alex Garcia.

Historical Information:  Blair Kamin.

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