I woke up this morning and spent 20 minutes trying to find the right photo that would really bring home what I am about to express. Do you know I have over 4,000 photos in my Chicago album of photos on my phone? Instead of a gorgeous skyline or image of me working, I went with this one. Let me explain why, and I’ll try to go quickly as I can – promise :
I have grown up with Lake Michigan as my pool and The museums as my back yard. Burnham Park Harbor is where I have spent every summer of my life. Jumping in the lake in May was an adventure. My Dad taught me how to fish in that harbor and every summer it has been our second home and our lake life.
We would go to Greek Town on Sundays when our restaurant was closed and how fun was the annual Greek Fest!
I couldn’t wait to walk over to the museums, especially the aquarium with my dad. We always had father/daughter days both in winter + summer that revolved around the museums. My father is constantly my teacher in addition to being my pal. The 3rd of July fireworks were so exciting. I used to wait ALL day to be able to walk across the museum campus from the boat to watch them. Or better yet, experience them from the boat out on the lake! There is nothing like it.
My mother planned a date each year with her high school friends to all attend Taste of Chicago together. I loved it.
I grew up going to the Assumption Church, across from G & G, where my family has been parishioners since emigrating to the U.S.
Speaking of, we have been here as a family for about 90 or so years now. Our family business WILL turn 80 next spring.
I have lived in the gold coast since I was 25. I wake up every summer morning and my windows are as tall as the trees. The light filters through and it is spectacular.
Chicago, you belong to many but for the sake of this post, you are my city. You are in my heart. My family has made their lives here. Have streets named after them in your River North neighborhood. Made memories. Worked hard. Made lives.
This same neighborhood is where we went from being newly arrived immigrants to entrepreneurs chasing the American Dream to restaurateurs that have grown to four generations.
And now, I will protect that dream my grandparents pursued so bravely with both love and determination in my heart. And Chicago, I want to do that for you too. I will not move out. Or throw up my hands and give up.
We did not make it to 79 years by giving up. So I am staying right here. Supporting businesses like my own, that need the support. Independent ones and even larger companies too. Every job matters right now, so I will support whomever I can however I can.
Everybody is going through something. These are the weirdest, saddest most exhausting times. So much anger from one human to another. So much to sort through and process. And I get it. And I am not over simplifying any of it. It all needs conversation, action and change.
Elected officials, members of the media, community leaders, citizens, business owners – CHICAGOANS need to have all of that. And I’m in. I’ll go, I’ll be a part of the efforts for solutions. Whatever it takes. If you are part of an organization that I can contribute to in some way, reach out because I am ready.
Because I am not leaving you, Chicago. I am not leaving. I love this city.
Last, “Andiamo” is the name of our family boat. It translates to “Let’s Go”
So the photo of itty bitty me, smiling because my Dad was taking the photo? The message is clear.
The photo, and this post will not solve any problems we are facing. But my hope is that like me, some of you can remember today what you love about this city and what makes it so special. For me, this is my reminder to myself to hang tight and stand strong.
“Let’s Go, Chicago”