Our foyer, in the gloaming.

This weekend I returned to Chicago to pack up my house in anticipation of my family’s move to San Francisco. As some of you know, I took a new job in the City by the Bay, ECD of gyro. I’ve been in that position for almost half a year. Time flies when you’re having fun. As I’ve written numerous times, the job has indeed been fun. And rewarding. During my relatively short tenure we’ve won a new piece of business and improved the creative product on clients we already have. For me the acid test is long over. I’ve found my calling.

Yet, while I was away, my family remained in Chicago. During that time my girls finished up their school year and embarked upon the many joys of summer vacation. For much of it my wife was subservient to them. No easy task. But she handled it with aplomb.

However, summer is in the final turn and now it’s time to address the many stressful tasks associated with moving. Fortunately, the most important matter –buying and selling real estate- has been taken care of. We are now the proud owners of a lovely home in Mill Valley, California.

Which brings me to our house in Chicago. The new owner takes possession in a few days. The movers come today to help us pack and the trucks pull away from the curb on Thursday.  The weekend was the calm before the storm. Soon chaos reigns.

I spent Saturday boxing up my office and mowing the lawn one last time. Both activities allowed me ample time for reflection. Something, in this case, which brought more sadness than delight. I am not wired for nostalgia. Saying goodbye to my house, not to mention this city, is bittersweet at best.

The ghosts of Christmas Past, all in Snuggies.

Ours is a pretty home. So much so the Chicago Tribune once shot pictures of it for their Sunday magazine. And now it will belong to another. A couple I have never met with a child who will have his pick of my children’s bedrooms. The man, a lawyer I’m told, will sit in the very spot I wrote this and do whatever it is lawyers do when they’re at home. I was tempted to scratch a message into my (his) built-in desk. “Steffan was here.” But then he’d have probably sued me for damages.

Whatever. Best to let go. But letting go, I’ve found, is a hell of a lot easier when I’m in San Francisco. There it’s all about the future. OMG, we will raise California girls! They will have tans all year round. My wife will wear white pants in October. With any luck, my agency will prosper as well. And seldom will I have to look back, remembering Christmases and Easter mornings and listening to the Cicadas trilling away in August. Like I am (was) now.

Goodbye house. See you later, Chicago. You’ve been good to me and mine. And I’ll miss you. But not the shoveling of snow and walking dogs when it’s ten below. That will be another man’s job. And he can have it.

Jack Postaer, 1913-2012

Advertising runs in our blood. My father was in it for 50 years, the “P” in RPA is his. My brothers are both practitioners in Adland. Jeremy even found a way to make money as a voice-over. Can you say “Bing?” Before retiring, my mother was an art buyer for several Chicago agencies, including FCB, when they still called it that. And then there’s me. I took to this business as if God himself told me to.

Yet maybe we need to go back farther than my father, to this man, Jack Postaer. My grandfather earned a living actually selling stuff, as a green grocer and later a cab driver. As a teenager he sold ice from the back of a truck, this when they still used horses. Air conditioning was called Lake Michigan. And people surfed the radio. Obviously, I don’t remember him as a workingman (he retired when my memory started!) but some years ago I went through a period when I asked him untold questions about his youth, where he lived, how it was…

My grandfather lived much of his life on Chicago’s south side, going to Maxwell Street to buy and barter: eBay from a truck bay. Hard core retail. For men like Jack, the American dream meant selling. During the Great Depression, selling even harder.

Maybe the Postaer gene for it, then, started with him.

Jack Postaer and his long line of salesmen

When my dad got his first “career” job, writing copy for the venerable Sears Roebuck Catalog, Jack was mighty proud. Brokenhearted when he quit, to write jingles on Michigan Avenue. Much, much later when I started my career at the famous Leo Burnett Company, Gramps was over the moon. If, on occasion, The Chicago Tribune’s George Lazarus deemed one of us worthy of his column the phone rang before we got the paper. Jack understood the greatness in selling and loved that we got it, too.

Grandpa Jack died yesterday, peacefully, at the age of 99. I’ll bet the silver dollar he once gave me that when he sees Leo Burnett in Heaven he’ll be sure and show him those clippings.

Finally, many of you are friends of mine on Facebook. On behalf of our family I’d like to thank you for all the kind words. It was deeply appreciated.


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