I was desperate to leave the stifling sameness of our suburban enclave and never look back. We were the only family among Dad’s six siblings to flee the city. Mom’s eldest brother led six of their seven families from Chicago to Los Angeles after he first beheld boundless sunshine illuminating clear hilltop views of the vast Pacific Ocean, long before today’s pervasive smog. Only Mom stayed behind after meeting her match-made-in-Heaven at Dad’s homecoming party honoring his World War II overseas service.

In a spirited summer after I graduated high school, my stint as a day camp counselor at the American Indian Center in Chicago’s gritty Uptown neighborhood gave me my first sustained tantalizing flavor of the diversity I craved. Trips to the nearby bottle-strewn Montrose Beach were the closest brush with nature my 10-year-old charges from a hodge-podge of backgrounds encountered.

At 92, Mom still loves living in the tri-level tract home they bought brand-new 60 years ago. I’ve lived in Chicago 40 years, 33 in a 100-year-old house one mile from the American Indian Center’s healing herb Peace Garden. It’s a short distance to volunteer at the Bird Sanctuary alongside Montrose Beach.

Am I finally a city girl?