Sweet Home Chicago

Well hello, Hyde Park. It's been a month since you last heard from me, and I've been buried deep in a pit of work crises, nap resistance (S, not me), and overanalysis.

August, as you might remember, is simple living month around these parts, and since this is the interweb, where truth reigns, I should tell you that nothing about August felt simple: We cheated. A lot. We got take-out. I bought yogurt at the store. The budget we try hard to adhere to went out the window. I have excuses, and they are many and mighty, but the truth is that it was, well, simpler, to rely on convenient solutions during the busy end of summer. Hard to accept -- I'd like to believe that making my own dishsoap is not only economical and better for my family, but that it's the easiest thing to do, as well. But sometimes it's not.

None of this, however, explains my abrupt September sabbatical.

Feel free to sigh here, because that's what I've been doing. And though I used the word "overanalysis" earlier, I don't know that it's possible to overanalyze something so important.

Here's the deal: crime in this city is up. Way up. Violent crime. Homicides. Shooting deaths. And though I've spent 5 years trying to pretend Hyde Park is protected by some invisible barrier, it's not. This summer, gunfire crept close enough that one night, while watching tv, B and I heard a shot.


I'm not going to list the incidents that have taken place too close for comfort. We've addressed it here before -- the idea that it happens anywhere is uncomfortable, and it's unfair to draw lines around any neighborhood in this city. (I almost said...and meant...godforsaken city...because doesn't it FEEL that way??)

I check out the crowd at the park if we're there in the late afternoon (not that it matters -- a recent fatal shooting down the road from us happened at 10:45 am on a weekday), and if there's any bad juju, we head home. B's stopped confronting idiot cyclists who ride on the sidewalks -- who knows what anyone's packing?? I keep taking my pepper spray out and practicing using it, and then putting it back in my desk drawer, honest-to-God believing that if someone is drawing a weapon, they're going to check for ladies with strollers first.

What's wrong with me?

No one looks before they shoot. That's why there are zillions of innocent people getting caps busted in their asses every other day.

I'm torn, as you might imagine, because I love Hyde Park, and I've come to love Chicago, to think of it as home. S has friends now that she's known since she was born, and I love that. I love the idea that she could have literal lifelong friends. But I don't love the idea so much that I'm not willing to rip it away if I feel her safety is genuinely threatened. I don't know what that will take.

There are so many things I'm torn about, raising a child in this city in general, in Hyde Park in particular. And when we go to playgroup, nobody's talking about this! No one is admitting that they're having doubts, or maybe they've committed on a deeper level than I ever will. Maybe they're afraid to even let the thoughts begin, because they see the way it snowballs for me and don't want to change their lives, especially not for fear!

Neither do I! I don't even HAVE the fear response for me -- give me a bridge and I will jump from it. A snake and I will pet it. A dark corner and I will explore it. But for S, I am afraid.

We haven't reached a crossroads -- I don't think this is the kind of path that offers up obvious turns -- but it's an ongoing dialogue in our house, one that includes discussion of the near-complete lack of media coverage of Hyde Park crimes (as if we're fooling anyone). We talk, too, about the value of diversity as an ideal when, in practice, the example set for S here seems likely to make her less tolerant and more narrow-minded than she might otherwise be. (Let's come back to this in another post.)

It's sad, and it's hard. I want to love living here forever. I want to feel safe and protected, and I want to be confident I'm doing the right thing by my kid. It's all I've thought about for the past month: are we making the right decision? And we'll continue to think about it, and I hope you will, too. And until an answer becomes obvious, we'll keep doing what we're doing: trying not to let caution interfere with our enjoyment of our neighborhood, our lives. :) Keeping our chins up.

Til next time, Hyde Park.

Filed under: Hyde Park News, Parenting


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  • What bothers me most about your post is that it seems the violence in your area is being covered up! You and your neighbors have a right to know what is happening in your own neighborhood! Hiding the problem will not make things better! The lack of media coverage in your area is appalling! The people who live in Hyde Park deserve better than a spread in the paper about all the revitalization of the area. You all deserve to have the facts and figures that the city and the University of Chicago don't want you to have. It seems it is time for your community to come together and demand more from the media and your elected officials! You cannot make an educated decision about raising your child in this community if you are not given all of the facts. I sincerely hope you do not give up on the city that you so very clearly love. It is a city worth saving and those who care as deeply as you are the ones who will save it.

  • Hi fellow Hyde Parker, we live in this beautiful, and most interesting part of the city too, more than likely much longer than you.
    And there has definintly been a change in the compostion and timbre of our neighborhood.
    We do not "hear" about the crimes in our area unless it reaches the high level of attention from the media.
    Our building management will send out a memo to residents if any altercations happens on our grounds, ie parking garage, walkways.
    Non residents will never get this potentially vital info.
    We can guess who keeps most of these incidents from the public eye.
    All citizens of our neighborhood should be well informed about crimes where we live.New Police Chief is also downplaying crime overall in the city"murders up, crimes down" huh?
    But alas, fellow blogger and neighbor fear not,keep your eyes wide open,enjoy our parks, beaches and everything we cherish.
    If any consolation most criminal activity is committed by non Hyde Parkers.

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