The suburbs are winning.
Insert obligatory Charlie Sheen reference or demented cackle here.
We’re moving, at the end of the month, from our Chicago condo to a house in a northern suburb. We’ve already started the long pack, which is truly the worst thing about moving. That and the whole deciding to move part.
As soon as the sale of our condo was confirmed, my mother-in-law brought down some boxes and a pair of work gloves and got to packing. Shelves are empty. Kitchen cabinets are bare. We’ve a wall of boxes on our back porch, filled mostly with dishes, glasses and books.
There’s a part of me that wanted to say, “Let’s just slow down here a minute, ladies.”
Before we got married, I lived in the same apartment for eight years, a “vintage” (read: dump) one-bedroom just off of Belmont. I’d moved three times in four years before I found the place and I told myself that I wasn’t moving again until I got married. Plus, I liked it well enough to stay, even after it got broken into.
After I moved out, I didn’t miss the place for one second. (Although every once in a while, in winter, I do kind of miss the hiss and rattle of that old radiator.) I’ve only ever missed a four bedroom box I shared with three friends my senior year of college. When I moved out, it meant the end of more than just a lease.
This condo, though. It’s different. Because it’s where I started to feel like an adult.
When Lara and I got married, we lived in a loft in the southwest Loop, a neighborhood neither of us had ever been close to living. We thought it was a good idea, to be where none of our friends were, to have some time and space, just the two of us, as we started our grand adventure. Two years later, we started talking about having kids. The thought of having a child in a two bedroom with walls that didn’t reach the ceiling sounded like death itself. So buying this condo was the first decision we made with Jack in mind, and he was another two years away.
We’d looked at maybe 60 places together and another million online. What the internet has done to real estate is a bizarre thing. You can click through strangers’ houses and laugh at their decorating choices. One place, I’ll never forget. It had an entirely pink bathroom. Toilet. Bathtub. Floor tile. Everything. Pink.
When we looked at the photos of this place, all the frustrations of trying to find a place to live just went away. Because it had nooks and character and an office and big bedrooms and all these other things that we wanted in a home.
Three days after walking through it for the first time, we’d bought ourselves a condo.
There will come a time, when Jack is a little bit older, when I’ll take him for a ride. We’ll park the car in Lincoln Square and go to lunch. Then we’ll take a little walk, back here, and come sit on the porch.
This is the place, I will tell him, where you once lived. I threw your mother a surprise party here, when you were in her belly, and had a cake made that looked like our dog. We watched a movie — Role Models — the night before we went to the hospital to have you. When we brought you home, we gave you baths in the kitchen sink. This is where you crawled and walked and talked and danced and sang and said your letters and opened Christmas presents for the first time.
There were firsts for me, too. This is where I got more serious about writing. Where I started this blog. Where I felt like a hip urban parent. Where I started a family.
I lived in the city for a long time. I liked being able to say that I did. I liked that I could drive to work. I liked the thought of options, of bustle, of Chicago’s funky, dirty charm. And I liked that the city, this condo, was where I felt part of something larger than myself for the first time. Which is why we left. Because it was an us decision, not a me decision.
Now let’s go home.