Parents want their children to stand on their shoulders and become successful. My dad barely graduated from Fenger High School during The Great Depression, taking an eleven dollars a week job he considered himself lucky to get -- grueling work shoveling out blast furnaces at U.S. Steel.
When his mother was hit by a trolley car, my mother ran her clothing store on 63rd and Halsted for her, my dad working there after he got home, exhausted, from the steel mill. After my grandmother recovered, my mother pressed my dad to open their own clothing store. It was the heart of The Great Depression and he thought she was out of her mind to try starting a business. But she persisted.
They rented a tiny shop and bought third hand clothes at Maxwell Streets’ open-air market. My mother resewed buttonholes and replaced zippers on the worn clothes. They’d match a pair of pants, a suit jacket and a vest and sell it for two or three dollars.
When they at last succeeded in pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and had built a mini-clothing empire of six Chicagoland stores, my father’s fondest wish was for his sons to join him in the business. I tried it for seven years, but it wasn’t for me.
My dad thought I was crazy to give up living in a 47th floor apartment in Chicago’s luxury Lake Point Tower and driving a Mercedes so I could bang my fingers against a typewriter. My mother was distraught that I was cutting the chord by moving to L.A.
I hated disappointing them, but I hated the clothing business more. It wasn’t my true path. I was a writer.