Place Where You Live:

Ottawa, Illinois

We moved for a better place to raise a child, closer to family and civilization, than the town wedged in between cornfields under a wide black sky punched with stars. Often my mind wanders to us as newlyweds, walking a few blocks from our house downtown to the pizza parlor to wait upwards of an hour for the freshly baked crust, past diners on every corner serving a thin crowd of locals. We’d pay with cash at the gold 1920’s register and sift on down a row of brick-front shops that never seemed to be bustling. We drank in the quiet save for the lazy ding of a door bell here and there as we thumbed through antique postcards and records.

Moving on for a stroll in the town square, we had nowhere to be but there in that moment, walking the path that Lincoln once graced, as we were reminded time and again by his bronze statue, forever towering over Douglas in heated debate like it was 1858. In the winter a warm red scarf hung cheerily from Douglas’s shoulders, as if it had always been there too.

Sometimes I look at the house we moved into, nestled along a warm North Carolina lake, where ice-laden sidewalks do not generally run along an intimate grid of square houses, and I wonder whose door my child will knock on as the fog of her breath encircles her face under the bright cold Midwestern sky.

“Can you come out and play?,” she might have said, gesturing to the park a mere block away, grass of the deepest green preserved beneath the melting snow.

Then it wouldn’t have been long until we all strapped on our helmets for a smooth, flat ride along the I&M Canal that linked our town to Utica. Coasting along water lazing in the canal, we’d pass the sand plant, cross stone bridges, stop to visit the county museum, fill our bellies with a picnic among wildflowers and prairie grasses, and head back on home.