Chelle Summer


The Path to the Future Through the Past

Michelle Rusk

I don't believe my deceased family members could have been any closer to me than they were this weekend when I took a trip back to my hometown, Naperville, in the Chicago suburbs.

My friend Karen graciously co-hosted a Chelle Summer Open House with me at her house. We both invited our friends for a Sunday afternoon of prickly pear punch, sangria, carob cookies, and an overwhelming selection of Chelle Summer handbags that I had made. 

I found a penny the day before I left and then on my first morning in Naperville– on my run– I found a dime. My dad. Later that morning, a Cardinal kept flying around the backyard, another sure symbol of at least my dad. Some time after I graduated from college, every night a Cardinal flew into the garage and stayed there, my dad waiting to shut the garage door (after his last smoke of the evening) when the Cardinal he called, "Birdie" had arrived for the night. While I know people say Cardinals are signs of their loved ones, it's always had a slightly different meaning for me because of my dad and Birdie.

The signs continued Saturday with Mom's song "Every Rose Has a Thorn" by Poison appearing in a Facebook comment that morning and that afternoon when we sang, "On Eagle's Wings" at mass. It was like they were with me in every way but physically.

I was back in my old neighborhood staying some blocks from the house I grew up in and around the corner from the house I owned just a few years ago. I stay with people I call family, but I'll admit I feel slightly disconnected without my parents– or my sister– there.

And yet, although I only get "home" about once a year now, I still believe that it's important to remember where you're from to see where you go in the future. You must know who you came from, what has influenced you, and the path you took, to see the journey ahead.

There are some aspects of my life I'm not totally secure in for the future– I know what I want, but that journey isn't quite clear. And yet I know that by taking a step into the past somehow it's taking me several steps forward.

Harry Caray and my sister D-D-Denise

Michelle Rusk

While everyone is remembering their parents or grandparents after the Cubs made the World Series, for me, it's about how my baseball bound my younger sister and I. It was my dad who took me to my first Cubs game although Denise was very young and stayed home (we got her the pennant behind her head) and later he often secured tickets ninth row behind first base that a man he worked with had, mostly taking Denise with him and once for opening day on her birthday, April 4.

I believe I went once with him, another time he gave me the tickets and my friend Dave and I trekked to the north side. Other times though, I went with my friends and sat in the bleachers. 

But it's mom who took us to New York City where we saw the Cubs play the Mets in Shea Stadium. I don't think my sister ever forgave Harry Caray after that day.

Mom worked for the old Midway Airlines and she as always looking for fun day trips for us to take. So on an April Sunday in the late 1980s, we boarded a plan to LaGuardia and took a bus to Shea where we saw the Cubs and Mets play. Having watched many, many, many Cubs games in my young life at that time, I knew that Harry Caray would announce the names of Cubs fans who were attending away games (which would almost be the entire stadium in Atlanta at the time).

I wandered the stadium somehow finding my way to where they were broadcasting and handed my note to someone at the door, not knowing if our names were read on the air or not.

We were recording the game at home but other people later told us that had indeed heard that "Marianne Linn and her daughters, Michelle and D-D-Denise..." were at the game.

"How could do that to my name?" she asked, disappointed, as she shook her head.

How many drinks had he had by then? we all wondered.

Denise and I pretty much lived for Cubs baseball. I'm not sure we ever attended a game together but we watched many of them on television together. Some of my favorite memories of life with her are the nights we drove over to Cub Foods and picked up a half gallon of Kemp's strawberry frozen yogurt and a package of Archway oatmeal raisin cookies that we then turned into ice cream sandwiches as we watched the Cubs play the late games against the Los Angeles Dodgers on the little black and white television in the kitchen.

And we watched the playoffs even when they obviously didn't include the Cubs although by then we were calling them the "Scrubs" because they had fallen apart by the end of the season.

I never thought I would see the day when the Cubs made the World Series but I also am honest when I say that baseball doesn't mean what it once did to me. I didn't watch it for a long time after she died and since then– especially now that I can't just turn on the radio or WGN to put on a game on the background– my life has changed. 

I hope that in heaven she is doing a jig today, with Mom and Dad. Yesterday as I drove to watch Greg's soccer team play, "Harden my Heart" My Melissa Manchester came on the radio as I pulled into the school parking lot. 

"Hi Denise," I greeted her, knowing it's one of three songs I believe that play to remind me she is there with me.

I'm sure that was her way of telling me she remembers our Cubs times together, too. And that anything is possible, even a Cubs World Series.