I have lived in my little-house-by-the-sea in Wilmington, NC on-and-off for the past 5 1/2 years. I say on-and-off as during that time I was away serving in the Peace Corps and then traveling cross-country in my RV or in my Jeep.
I decided it was time to move during my 4-month road-trip last Fall . With the wind whipping through my topless Jeep preventing me from listening to any type of music and with only my own thoughts playing in my head, I came to the realization that I was just not happy living in Wilmington – I needed to make a change.
I moved to Wilmington for several reasons. First, it’s on the ocean and I’m a ‘water baby.’ What’s interesting is that when you live here you end up not spending a lot of time on the beach – especially during the summer months – as they are jammed packed with tourists. I can barely get over the bridge, let alone find a parking space!
Second, I moved here because I knew the area. When the children were quite small we started vacationing each summer on Holden Beach, the most beautiful and family-friendly of the area beaches. It was there that I have some of my happiest memories. It was there that we spent our last family Christmas and New Years together before learning of John’s cancer. It was there that his ashes were, as he requested, scattered over the waves. So I had this connection to Wilmington and thought it would be a perfect place to settle.
But it wasn’t – for many different reasons – one of the major ones being that Wilmington has become a huge COUPLES retirement community. Though I’ve met and made some good friends while here, it really hit me that I’m single! And even though I really am not interested in ever remarrying, as a single person you are not welcomed with open arms into the local couples social scene (you might want to steal someone’s husband – seriously!!!).
And then there is the fact I am a middle-of-the-road liberal Independent and I am also not a Baptist. That might sound like a rather silly statement, but times have really changed since I moved here and these two characteristics have began to stand out in this land of church-going, extremely conservative Republicans. I recently had a man tell me he could never ask me out as he would only date a God-fearing Christian woman who attended church regularly and voted the RIGHT way. Those that know me well can guess my response….ggg.
While driving those 7999 miles last Fall I thought about where I would really want to live – someplace that would make me happy..and I could afford. Someplace I have a good, circle of friends; where are there fabulous museums, excellent theater, great concerts and to-die-for shopping. Plus I wanted good public transportation and a large body of water. I came up with only one place that fit my criteria… HOME….to Chicago.
Though born and raised in Danville (126 straight south of Chicago on Route 1), I fell in love with the Windy City during several summer theater sessions at Northwestern while in college. I packed up and moved there 2 days after I graduated. I sang and danced my way across some of the cities biggest (and smallest) stages, met my John and was married there, We sailed Lake Michgan, had a $500-a-month apartment on Lake Shore Drive (it’s now a condo and they want over $300k for our one-bedroom) made wonderful, life-long friends who still live there, left to live in Brussels and then Mpls/St. Paul and returned 30 years later to live in the far western suburb of Barrington (where I spent most of my time hoping on the train to spend my days downtown!)
I adore Chicago. I love a BIG city. I love the diversity, the hustle and bustle, the fact if I want a bagel at 4 a.m. I can find someplace open and serving them hot and fresh. I love all of the opportunities and organizations I can pick and chose from to join-in and participate, I love even the raucous politics. I love the idea of living in a ‘neighborhood’, knowing my neighbors and being able to walk to the local grocery store – all the things I’ve missed while living in a small town.
So I put my little house on the market October 1st and starting flying to Chicago to look for my new home. It took 4 trips (undying thanks to my cousin Sarah and her husband Mike for allowing me to use their apartment as my local B&B during these vists!) and a great realtor with Dwell Chicago to find me my perfect place…but in January I did just that.
I had come to the realization that at that my age I no longer needed or wanted to ‘own’ property. The upkeep of a home near the water was enough to make me know that I could do without the hassle of home maintenance or yard upkeep for the rest of my life. So I went in search of one of those wonderful, old, pre-WWII buildings that downtown Chicago is famous for. I wanted a building done in the Arts & Crafts design that had retained it’s original architectural features – like a fireplace, built-in bookcases and hutches, walk-in pantry and huge bay windows.
I found my perfect, 2-bedroom apartment in the East Rogers Park neighborhood.
Rogers Park is a great place to live. It’s located on the far North side of downtown, and boasts a wide array of locally-owned grocery stores, fruit markets, delis, restaurants and bars nestled along it’s tree-lined streets.
My place is a short 5 blocks to the lakeside where I can hop on my bike and ride for miles north into Evanston or south to Lincoln Park and downtown. I’m 2 blocks for the El, 3 blocks from the Metra (commuter train) and within mere feet from over 10 different bus lines. Because of all these options and a near-by Zip-Car lot, last week I sold my little Jeep.
My house is filled with boxes stacked to the ceiling and covering every flat surface.
I’ve hired a crew of movers on both ends to come and load and unload my furniture. I’ve talked my youngest into hoping in the truck in Raleigh and riding along to keep me company (which means he’ll do most of the driving – tee hee).
What I have really gotten so tired of hearing, over-and-over-and-over again, since I began telling folks that I was moving is “how can you possibly leave the fabulous, year-round nice weather of the South and return to the snow and ice of the Midwest?” And to that I say…easily… you just have to know how to dress for it. I’ve bought a really good down-filled coat, a pair of boots, hat and mittens and I’m ready for what little winter is left to endure once I arrive. I keep telling people that weather isn’t a reason to keep you some place. Weather can effect your mood but good weather alone can’t make you happy.
So with a day and a half left before “Move Day” when I’ll pick-up the 22′ Penske truck and head North, I have an appointment with my hair dresser this afternoon, dinner and a concert featuring Wynton Marsalis at UNCW tonight, packing the very last things to be packed and one last meeting with my realtor tomorrow and then…..wheels-up! I won’t be posting again until I get wireless service up and running and find the box with the computer, but promise to keep you posted on how everything is going.
I’m excited to get started as I’ve already been offered a part-time job at my favorite fabric store, a writing gig with the local historical society, being once again an active member of Sew Chicago and the Haute Couture Club of Chicago and I just volunteered to help with the 2012 Obama re-election campaign.
Life is good and only getting better!
Until next time….