Dear Highland Park, this is a love letter to you. I moved to Highland Park in the late summer of 1990 as a newlywed, fresh with the promise of a backyard and room to roam for our future children. I broke up with you in the fall of 2015, 25 years later. We had our ups and downs. Me, I had not grown up in this community. I grew up in Indiana.
Over the years, and three amazingly beautiful children and one sad divorce later, I made peace, so to speak, with you. I learned to go with the flow, and became involved in our children’s schools, our temple and the Highland Park community at large. I forged many many ties and bonds over those years.
After the tragedy on July 4 this year, I knew I needed to reconnect with my roots and ties to you. I took the train from Wicker Park, my new home for the past seven years, and leisurely enjoyed staring out the windows as the grassy yards and stately homes flew by. I passed quaint downtown areas before my destination.
As I got off the train in downtown Highland Park, I forgot for a minute what had taken place almost eight weeks prior.
The day was sunny and quiet. The gentle hum of the landscapers could be heard in the distance. The smell that comes with that, the delicious smell of freshly mowed grass, brought back overwhelming memories of my own summers here.
I shook my head and walked through town, snapping pictures to capture your beauty. Especially humbling and heartbreaking was the ceremonial display near the crossroads at the train tracks. Cards, candles, handwritten notes and the pictures. Oh, and the pictures of the victims. And under it all the gentle fragrance of patchouli and the strong representation of the color orange, which has become the color of the gun violence prevention movement, as I have sadly come to learn.
I continued on my stroll, stopping to say “hi” to former co-workers, as well as friends. My day ended up at the lakefront, which is a stunningly beautiful walk through stately old homes, as well as new construction built to look as grand as some of the older homes. The lawns are beautifully kept up, the flower beds and containers as gorgeous as any botanic garden. There were moms with small children, a gentle reminder that I, too, walked here for many years with my own trio to hunt for beach glass, picnic and swim.
Memories came flooding back, and of course with those memories were the snapshots of July 4 parades gone by.
Always with the same families setting up “camp” as one huge tribe of us. Setting up precisely across from where the shooter cruelly and unjustly took aim, shattering you forever.
So it is with a grateful heart that I can finally find the joy and the privilege of raising our young family in Highland Park.
You will forever be in my heart.
Lauren J. Senoff is a former resident of Highland Park.