I’ve been enjoying nature’s showcase of chicory growing along the edges of cemeteries along 22nd Street, 1st Avenue, and St. Charles Road, on street corners, in cracked sidewalks and on roadsides. This blue beauty roots its glory where other plants would feel mistreated, taking the opportunity with its partner, the delicate Queen Anne’s lace, providing contrast with its simple white blooms on branched taproot.

It decorates the guardrail at the end of Circle and 16th, on the south side of Roosevelt, once known as the Betsy Ross district, before the grade centers came to pass. 

Like living in a gated community, the south end of town, is a small puzzle of one-way streets, with a simple four-by-three-block micro-community within Forest Park. Affectionately known as SoRo (South of Roosevelt) by some of its inhabitants, it is the only home Henry, my oldest son, has ever known.

When I was pregnant, casual conversations with co-workers, friends and families would often meander to the “pain of childbirth.” Luckily, there were no complications and with a midwife at my side, we reframed the discomfort of childbirth and approached this life event with courage and trust. 

Once Henry was born, we had a reason to walk the streets of Forest Park, whether with a stroller or tricycle or on foot just to find pinecones. Then with a toddler in hand, the new question du jour became, “Where is Henry going to high school?” 

So armed with our attitude of courage and trust, we took the one-day-at-a-time approach for over 5,100 days, and now, here we are, experiencing the summer before Henry starts high school in the only town our kids have ever known. 

This week marks the final days of eight consecutive years of summer baseball season, which Henry started in Forest Park’s tot leagues. Last year we survived a Forest Park shift to River Forest leagues when our Forest Park baseball family thinned below the necessary nine players to field a team. Henry played with Pony League in Oak Park along with the three remaining ballers from the Mighty Tee’s of yesteryear. 

While he makes new friends from the other side of Harlem, many of Henry’s eighth-grade compadres from Forest Park Middle School are taking summer school classes at their prospective high schools, including several who are entering the International Baccalaureate program at PMSA. Henry, on his own path, and his kindergarten friend from Betsy Ross, Jah, are enriching their musical skills four hours a day at Proviso East Marching Band camp.

We are incredibly grateful to District 91 schools for their devotion and support of music in elementary and middle school. Henry has been able to take full advantage of the opportunity, learning to play the flute. Now his comfort on the flute has propelled him to the piccolo, and the new challenges of marching and playing. He is growing this summer under the direction of Mr. Seals, a dynamic and engaging band leader who is pleased to have this high-pitched woodwind in his band.

Logan, my nearly 10-year-old, meanwhile, is also finishing a season of baseball, with an incredible group of Forest Park kids and families. Once again, our family has been fortunate to be surrounded by a team of talented coaches, warmly engaging parents and great kids in the Forest Park baseball leagues. 

Our youth baseball travels have taken us to Batavia, Northlake, through Stone Park and Arlington Heights, and no matter where we go, we find the outcrops of the familiar blue chicory along the roads and sidewalks. 

Perhaps I have fallen in love with chicory because of its beauty, its perseverance, its tenacity and its reach. The blooms this summer have struck a profound chord for me. While driving along to the All-American games, Henry has been working on his Citizenship in the Nation merit badge, which includes reviewing the 27 amendments to the Constitution. While each amendment is unique and impressive, it is the first one that gets me more energized than any other: the core of democracy, freedom of speech, the reason for additions to the original 10 Bill of Rights. Its significance in our country is profound, beautiful, and — like the chicory weed — takes root and grows from every corner across the United States, from sea to shining sea.

As the Forest Park community takes on courageous conversations, I hope you will take a moment to engage in the community survey offered through Forest Park’s local newspaper, the Forest Park Review. Your voice and trust is valued and we want to hear from you. Complete the survey online by using the link bit.ly/FPRsurvey2017.
For a printed version of the survey, visit the Forest Park Review office at 141 S. Oak Park Ave. Oak Park, IL 60302 or call us at (708)366-0600 or (708) 613-3340.  Completed surveys must be postmarked July 28, 2017 to be eligible for random drawing.