A few weeks before Joe received his Master's degree, we had a big surprise. We were expecting another baby! This little one would be born when Tom was sixteen months old. This news put a crimp in our plans to move to Philadelphia and have me be the breadwinner. With the recession going on, we wondered what was going to happen next.
Most of the professors in the school of architecture had their own practices in addition to teaching, and for several summers Joe had been fortunate to find employment with one of them. Jim's office was two towns over from Kent. Jim had a business associate who was a recreation specialist, and that man's firm was looking for a young architect. Joe met Carl and liked him immediately and when a job was offered, he was delighted. The firm wasn't in Philadelphia, however, or even in the greater Kent and Akron region.
It was in Chicago.
So West we went.
During the first year of being a mom, I'd joined the La Leche League of Kent. My own mother had not been a good role model for parenting and, frankly, I was more than a little bit nervous. From these women, I learned so much, not just about breastfeeding, but about how to turn a couple with a baby into a family, how to nurse, how to cope with fussiness, the foundations of good nutrition, and so much more. When we moved to a suburb of Chicago, practically the first thing I did after the boxes were unpacked was to locate a League group. Shortly before Sherry was born, I had begun the process of becoming a group leader. All of the active listening training that I had taken with Help Line served me well, as I helped mothers get started and helped them solve problems in the early months of parenting. At one point I spent a week as the national "on-call" leader for the League's headquarters in Chicago.
I've heard many times that Chicago is a terrific city, but we didn't have enough money to take advantage of it. We bought our first home, a little three-bedroom ranch house in a suburb that may well have been the inspiration for the song "Little Boxes":
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.
My neighbors were nice enough women. But they were remarkably similar. All Caucasians. Mostly with two children, a boy and a girl. Winters in Chicago were brutally cold. Summers were horribly hot. Counseling pregnant ladies and leading group meetings wasn't quite enough for me. I went over to the nearby community college and put up signs advertising my typing service and landed a little work. We weren't close enough to a university for the dissertation market.
Ultimately an English professor utilized my services and when he came to pick up his paper, he asked me, "How is your spelling?" "Better than yours," I told him boldly. "And your punctuation?" "I've been a secretary for over twelve years." He went on to tell me that he taught freshman composition and at his stage of life had read every possible freshman theme far too many times. He was in search of a "reader" who would read and grade compositions and research papers for him. He was a great big man with an ample beard and very soon we were calling him "Tevye." This helped, as did the little bit of typing work. I took a "Stretch and Sew" course and soon was producing T-shirts in all kinds of sizes.
By the end of our first year in Chicago, Carl was ready to leave the firm. He and Jim were going to start their own practice of recreational planning, design, and architecture. He invited Joe to join them, with the promise that after another year or two, he could return to Ohio and work out of Jim's office.
It was a potential step in the right direction, that is, East, and Joe joined Carl in the new firm.
We were back in to counting the days until we could move back to Ohio!