Love Letters: White City, IL

05/14/2014 08:27 am ET Updated Jul 14, 2014

Nina Zippay is a writer, mother, and entrepreneur now living in Los Angeles, CA. In 2013 she launched Radical Cooks offering cooking classes for the young and not so young and writes a food blog at the same site. She is presently working on a memoir about her early years as the barkeeper's daughter entitled "Considering Where You're From."

Dear White City,

A part of your soul must have died when the smoke stacks from coal mine came crashing down that day. We all stood there, next to the tavern, listening to the dynamite explode and watching the towers fall. I was too young to realize it was the death knell. For they thought you existed for no other reason than to house the men who walked into the mines each day or night, depending upon their shift. But you were always more than a simple coal mining town to me.

It was on your roads my bike wheels popped the tar bubbles in the hot July sun. I learned to ride fast as I could past the dairy farmer's house with his big dogs chasing me down the road. It was in your forests my uncle and I squirrel hunted on brisk autumn mornings. I fished in your tiny creeks as a little girl, only to learn nothing bigger than a frog could live in such little water. Your White City pavilion housed my sister's wedding reception, a thousand parties, and a million polka dances. Your people helped my parents eke out a living running the only business, a tavern off the side of the road with Pabst Blue Ribbon sign hanging outside the door.

It was on your coal mine slag heaps I crashed my boyfriend's motorcycle attempting to ride it. The coal dust lodged into one of my cuts on my knee. When the cut healed, some of the black dust stayed just under the surface of my skin, forming a slag heap tattoo. Now I carry you with me always. When I see it I am reminded that we are more than the degrees, the careers, and the big city ways.

If I look the right way, I see you everywhere. You are in the eyes of every hard working janitor at my daughter's school or construction worker on the side of the road. When I see you there is a part of me which yearns for simple days with you, riding my bike carefree down the road, squirrel hunting with Uncle Otts, or serving shots and beers to a bar full of working men.

As long as you are there, I will always know where I am from. White City, Illinois. Population 200.