I never thought I’d be a city mouse. Actually, that’s not true. When I was young(er), I was sure I’d be a city girl: single, stylish, living in a high-rise building with a doorman with whom I’d flirt shamelessly. But in my early twenties, my expectations of myself changed dramatically: I wasn’t single anymore; I was more dedicated to lululemon than Lanvin; and my desire to live in the noisy, filthy, crowded city was nil.
But my husband, B, wanted to give Chicago the ole college try and I’m game to try anything once (and usually two or three times). So in the dead of winter 2007-2008, B and I came searching for a new home in Chicago. Not knowing anything about the neighborhoods, we tried them all, starting on the north side and working our way down. Rogers Park was a poor fit: everything was so close together, light itself couldn’t seep between buildings. Other neighborhoods (names have been omitted to protect those who choose to live there) were either too snooty (one lakeshore high-rise kept us waiting for nearly an hour only to rudely be unwilling to show us anything…maybe my yoga pants didn’t give the impression that we were serious) or too scary (we skipped several showings out of sheer terror that getting out of the car was a risky move).
After an exhausting day of searching, B and I were driving south on Lake Shore, back toward Sweet Home Indiana. I was starving and cranky, near tears and certain we were making the wrong decision. There was no way we could live in the city – it was clear that everyone there already hated us, and we didn’t fit in anywhere. B, saint that he is, suggested we stop for lunch.
“Just tell me when you see an exit you want to take,” he said.
I was skeptical, but kept my eyes glued to the window, ignoring the gorgeous lake to the east, committed to changing my mind, a stubborn, sulky teenager. And then I saw it: like an oasis, a grove of trees, and then another.
“How about here?” I said cautiously.
B took the exit and we stopped at the first restaurant we saw. At that time it was Orly’s. It’s now the Big Easy. I went to the bathroom and by the time I came back, B was seated, in deep conversation with one David Shapiro, proprietor. That day, David introduced us to his realtor. We saw half a dozen places in Hyde Park and came back a few weeks later to look at more.
We’ve been here for three years now and just moved into a permanent home. Hyde Park is, for us, the perfect neighborhood. It’s all the best things about the city (culture, public transportation, walking-distance grocery stores) combined with all the best things about our small-town homes before we came here (relatively low crime, neighbors you know, green outdoor space). We’re close to the lake, we know where to get a good sandwich, and we’re confident that this is a community in which we can raise happy, healthy, and open-minded children.
This blog is dedicated to all the wonderful things about this neighborhood we love so much: the small businesses, the ample parks, the kind people, and the sense of community to which each of these things – and others – contributes.
Hello Hyde Park. I love you.
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