It was like reliving our first year in the U.S. all over again when we decided to move back from Buffalo Grove to Chicago last year in August. Honestly, we didn’t think we’d like it at all here. We had, after all, been so used to the quiet , clean and beautiful suburban community we had known, lived in and moved around for 28 years. Bart didn’t think he’d like city living anymore. I, on the other hand, was more open and willing to sincerely try.
We didn’t have much time to look for apartments so we picked the third one we had seen. It was a newly renovated 2-unit brick building, just a mile away from our daughter’s house. The building is the newest and the nicest looking one in the street but that was about all the good things I could speak of the place. Seeing some empty soda cans and papers strewn on the street and around the block, a few multi-family unit apartments that beg some much needed work , I wasn’t too sure we made the right decision to live, much less raise our grandson in this neighborhood.
The back alleys are worst. Driving through them in the wee hours of the night was always a dreadful experience for me, especially when we pass by a couple of men converging around a car or in their garage over beer and other alcoholic drinks. The mugging experience of our friend in their garage a few years back was always on the back of my mind. I make sure the garage door has closed before unlocking the car doors and getting out.
The ‘Q’ Factor
‘Q’ stands for Quincy, our grandson who is now 17 months old. He was only a newborn when his Mom and Dad started dropping him off at our place every morning and picking him up early evening Monday to Friday. Every morning, Bart or I would put him in a stroller and take him around the block, a habit he has grown accustomed to that to this day, he demands to be taken out on a walk each day whether on foot or in his stroller.
Like they say, babies attract people as honey attracts bees. They make passersby stop and take notice, say a nice word or two about him and thus pave way for a friendly conversation between adults. And as Quincy grows up, his adorable smiles and charming eyes were like magnets to kids, teens and adults alike. They stop by to talk and play with him. And as he gets more confident of his motor skills, he also consequently develop his social skills, saying ‘hi’ to everyone he meets on the street and plays eagerly with anyone who’d take his “bait.”
Quincy’s first batch of friends came by one afternoon after school. Vicky, about 10 years old and her cousins, Armani, 6 and his two other brothers whose names I couldn’t anymore recall. Four more visits after and the group just didn’t come back anymore. It must have been because of the cold weather. Or perhaps, their parents learned of their escapades in the “new building” and forbade them to ever go back.
Then, along came 10 year-old Omar and Ricardo, who must be between 11 and 12 years old and his cousin Britney and some teen-age girls who all made Quincy feel special. They played ball and hide and seek with him , to the great delight of our little Quincy.
I’ve also met and struck up some friendly chats with a couple of women whose beautiful flower gardens and front yards make up for some of the street’s misgivings. Over time, even the men on a regular drinking spree at the back alley don’t scare me anymore. Bart and I would wave at them each time we pass by, a simple gesture that broke the ice between us and put my mind at ease.
This isn’t so bad a neighborhood, after all, I told myself.
Biases and Prejudices
People tend to judge a neighborhood based on what their eyes can see. Multiple housing units are usually notoriously identified with gang violence, poverty, residents with inadequate education, social parasites, etc. Yet, while this is true of many very depressed areas in Chicago, other neighborhoods and communities that have mixed single family homes and multi-family residences and inhabited by a mixed group of middle income and working poor families can still prove to be diamonds in the rough. They are warm compassionate, helpful and sincere people who could even prove better neighbors than some who think of themselves better than others on account of their economic and social status in life.
In contrast, I remember how our next door neighbor in our first house in Buffalo Grove used to send a policeman or two to our house on complaints that we are running a printing business in our basement. The two old women would even take pictures of our garage and the stacks of Philippine Time magazines thinking it could prove her claim against us. They never liked our lifestyle, with some very close friends visiting us and leaving late in the night. They hated the noise of my daughter’s drums or our sons’ horsing around with their friends. We were never able to make friends with them and I never dared to talk to them even when we knew we were leaving after selling our house. We could have tried and probably should have but at that point, we didn’t see any reason to.
We are moving out of our current residence again before the end of August and into a house our daughter and her husband purchased as an investment for us to live in. It’s four blocks south of the same street we now live. The neighborhood looks great, with nothing but bungalow style single family homes whose front and backyards give a more positive impression to home buyers and future residents like us. We met some of our immediate neighbors at the block party and they seemed nice and friendly. My son-in-law told me that our future neighbor two houses down our south used to help mow for free the lawn of the old woman who lived in the house we are moving into while our next door neighbor on the left was the front yard to keep it clean until a new owner (that will be us) moves in.
Already, I’m feeling quite at home. And this time, I hope my first impression proves me right.YT