My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Walk to Town Location

I grew up in a "walk to town and train" location. A choice between two quaint train stations headed me to classes at DePaul University and, later, to my job at Wabash Street offices in Chicago. A little touch of Maybury exists in many towns studding train lines nationwide, and I always wanted to continue my childhood experience, living within walking distance of the rails in a town that embraced them. Often these little rail towns are historic, and residents work hard to keep their original flavor.

When my husband and I were dating, I remember long walks discussing where we'd like to someday settle. We agreed the local parish should be faithful and vibrant, and the location, a walk from town and rails. Also, that we would love to live in a college town. I remember getting that specific. We'll be celebrating our 21st anniversary October 7th, and, in many ways, are living in our dream location.

We had to make sacrifices. We could have purchased a larger tract home in a drive-to-everything location in a more far-flung suburb. We chose, instead, a little in-town, 3-bedroom ranch on a city-sized lot, centrally located between my husband and my families. It's a tight fit for our family. Now that the children are teens and pre-teen, we're forever bumping into each other in the galley kitchen and around tight corners. I do have times when I fantasize about finding a more spacious home in the country!

But I felt very blessed last night, as we headed for a walk into the mild, summer dusk. We strolled toward one of three little business districts surrounding our home. The kids broad-jumped impressive puddles left by a day of storms. We respectfully stood silent while a skunk ambled nearby on a lawn. The clouds were beautiful, the air fragrant with moist August blooms.

We live in a neighborhood where people walk. We're forever spotting the 97-year-old lady who perambulates her Yorkie in a basket in her rolling stroller, local kids training for track, city commuters heading home, a fun array of dog varieties taking owners for a walk. We've been re-instituting after-dinner family walks, and I'm glad!

On St. Patrick's or Memorial Day, we walk or bike to the parade. On Thanksgiving, our street closes and we watch crowds stroll by to prepare for the "Turkey Trot" race. On summer Wednesdays, a two-block stroll brings me to an open-air French market.

True, we're elbow to elbow with neighbors. Just like we jam possessions into undersized closets, we cram our garden into a narrow lot. We strain to glimpse any stars. In our proximity to city lights, we witness plenty of pale, pink night skies. But I love twilight strolls, hearing clinks of dishes from kitchens. I cherish the simplicity and freshness of 6:30 AM Saturday treks with my husband to grab coffee and a cup of oatmeal downtown. I delight leaving the car in the garage and walking with my children to parks, library, music store, coffee and pizza shop, jazz festivals on the green, and a college offering free classic movies and interesting concerts and lectures. We could even walk the half-mile or so to church, if we weren't so groggy early Sunday mornings.

A walk to town location. It calls for some pint-sized, crowded living. But it can also cut through the busy-ness of a typical technology-filled day. When we stroll with no destination but the journey, or take a twenty-minute walk to run an errand, instead of hopping in the car to get there in a hurry, we're choosing a simpler, more reflective life.

This photo I took of Mineral Point, Wisconsin, resembles a street from my historic, childhood rail town.