I met a group of friends from my grammar school days last Friday for lunch. We had a great meal and had a lot of laughs. It made for an enjoyable afternoon.
But it occurred to me how life is so cyclical. I graduated from St. Margaret of Scotland, which was located at 99th and Throop in Chicago’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Our family had moved to the community when I was in the fourth grade.
We moved to Washington Heights from Roseland. I was actually excited about the move. St. Margaret’s was only two blocks away. The previous school I went to -- St. John De La Salle -- was over a mile. That was a long walk.
The only awkward moment was that my first day of class at St. Margaret’s was in October. I was led in by my new teacher, Sister Sulpice, and I felt every eye on me. That was my introduction to St. Margaret’s. After being initially apprehensive and nervous, I began to get used to going to the school and made some friends. I made more friends over the next couple of years playing baseball and football.
When you are a kid, your world often revolves around you. I recall going to an open house for Mendel High School when I was in eighth grade. I noticed two familiar looking guys my age looking over some trophies. They then left the room and it occurred to me that one of them was named Mickey Mahlum. He lived a block away from me in Roseland, near 100th and Michigan.
I walked home from school often with Mickey Mahlum and would go to St. John’s for weekend activities, like watching movies. We weren’t close friends but we got along. We would laugh and tease each other, like most kids would.
But seeing him that day reminded me that life goes on beyond your neighborhood borders. We visited our Roseland block once after we moved but never returned after that. I now lived in Washington Heights and was entrenched in the neighborhood. It’s as if when I moved, life stopped in my Roseland neighborhood. After seeing Mickey Mahlum, I realized it didn’t.
I recall my graduation from St. Margaret’s. While I had fun there, it was time to move on. We were all little restless at that point. My job, along with many of my friends, was to drive the nuns crazy. We did a good job of that. But I also have some fond memories of the Sisters of Notre Dame. It was another time and a different era. At Catholic schools today, there are few if any nuns teaching or residing at the parishes.
Many of us went on to different high schools. I kept in contact with my close friends and we still hung out. But the neighborhoods surrounding St. Margaret’s was in transition. The once predominately Irish Catholic neighborhood became mostly African American. Many of my friends had moved and casual acquaintances left. I stayed in contact with many friends, but life begins to tug you in different directions.
Our family eventually moved but I did not spend much time at our new home. I went away to college and made some more friends. One day stood out in my mind. I was attending summer school during the summer of 1976 at Western Illinois University in Macomb. Walking through an area called the Union in the middle of the campus that featured fast food restaurants and offices, I saw a familiar face walking towards me. It was none other than Mickey Mahlum. I talked to him briefly wondering why he was there. He was visiting an old friend from the old Roseland neighborhood who was attending WIU.
After saying our goodbyes, I shook my head. What were the chances of seeing this person from my distant past walking through a student lounge in Macomb?
But I guess when you are around long enough, it’s like going through a revolving door. People from our distant past come back into your lives. I got married after college and we had two kids. Most of the mid-1990s into the mid-2000s was spent helping to coach my son’s baseball teams and my daughter’s basketball squad.
I kept up with some friends from St. Margaret’s but not everyone. A recent St. Margaret’s reunion brought a lot of us together again. We can’t bring back the past but it was fun looking at pictures from our lunch outing. And why not have fun at this stage. That’s what it is all about.
And who knows? Maybe I will see Mickey Mahlum again.