The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

January 9, 2010

New in the neighborhood

I mentioned our new place several times in my last entry, but I didn’t really say anything substantial about it. Hence, this.

So we decided to put our place on the market this summer. I know, who would do such a thing in 2009 unless they were forced to? We had no compelling reason to move, other than a feeling of having outgrown our little condo and a desire to buy a bigger place for less than it would’ve cost a few years ago. After much deliberation, we’d decided to stay in the city rather than move to a nearby suburb. We felt ready for our next chapter.

We’ve pretty much been living below our means the last six years, so we could take a loss on the sale (and take a loss we did). So we hired a realtor, looked at surrounding two-bedrooms that had sold recently, priced our place competitively (another identical unit was for sale in the building), took down all our fridge magnets and framed photos, cleaned up the piles of books, moved an armchair down to the basement, and onto the market we went.

Within three weeks, after three open houses, several showings, and many half-hour increments spent at the dog beach, in the basement rec room, and walking very slowly around the neighborhood, we had three offers. Three! Yes, one was a total lowball, but still. Our place seemed to appeal to first-time buyers, what with the low price and the government tax credit. We hosted a little bidding war between two parties, and we settled at a price that was pretty close to our asking one. Done.

In the meantime, we had found The Dream Place (TDP). Before we even listed ours, we’d spent a sunny Sunday afternoon biking around the neighborhood we really wanted to live in. John noticed an open house, we stopped in with only 10 minutes to spare, and we fell in love, hard. The unit was absolutely beautiful, a new gut-rehab of a 100-year-old building… tall ceilings, huge windows, a dining room, three bedrooms, two baths, a fireplace, a covered garage, a huge deck… all on a quiet, gracious, green street just a few steps away from shops, bars, and restaurants. Within walking distance of the lake. Within walking distance of the el. It seemed too good to be true.

John snapped several photos with his iPhone, and he pored over them in the coming days while I stoically refused to look and cautioned him against falling for a place before ours was sold. We visited 10 or 11 other homes—condos, townhouses, even two small houses—but nothing could quite compare to TDP.

Many more things happened between the time we made an offer on TDP and Monday, Sept. 28, the day we moved in. Anyone who’s bought and sold real estate knows that it’s an extremely bumpy, stressful, and nausea-inducing ride, and our experience was no different… so much haggling, waiting, strategizing, finding out that TDP’s association rules forbid dogs over 30 pounds… you name it. But in the end, we sat around a table in a Loop high-rise, signed our names 146 times, and were given a set of keys. Unbelievably, magically, The Dream Place was ours.

Moving was weird, sad, exciting. The day we cleaned out our old condo and shut the door on it forever was a bit melancholic. It was the first home we owned, and we lived there for six years, along with Moose and then Stella. We painted the walls with colors we loved. We listened (unwillingly) to our neighbors doing Vietnamese karaoke. We sat on the tiny deck and grilled out and drank beer, fighting small battles with the pigeons determined to roost above our back door (we won in the end). We walked countless loads of laundry down three flights, through the courtyard, onto the sidewalk, through another door, and down to the basement. We stayed up late laughing with neighbors during summer courtyard parties. We made exceptionally dear friends. We watched some of those friends become parents, and then we grew to love their kids.

The old neighborhood is rough around the edges; there’s litter, and people on the corners yelling, and if you’d like to buy drugs, well, they’re not hard to find. It’s crowded because of nearby high rises, making it tough to find parking. It’s near a busy street that’s scary to cross. People are somewhat lax about shoveling snow off the sidewalks.

But it’s full of interesting people. It’s incredibly diverse—very young people and very old, Ukrainian, Russian, Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, white, black, Latino. There are lots of people with dogs, and in six years we became acquainted with many of them, enough to give a friendly greeting, stop to ask how life is going, let the dogs say hello to each other.

I miss my old neighbors, and there are things about my old neighborhood that I miss, too, even though I adore the new one and still can’t quite believe I get to call it home. There are no crumpled beer cans on the grass. Construction dumpsters don’t overflow with household trash. People don’t scream at each other in the street. The block club is an active one, and although the area is less diverse, it’s also less transient… people stay for a long time, raise kids, become middle-aged. It’s what we plan to do. This is going to be our home for a long time. And because of that, I know that eventually, I’ll get to know my fellow dog-walkers. When the weather’s warm again, we’ll be out on the deck, chatting with our neighbors on their deck across the way. I can’t expect our home of three months to feel as familiar as our home of six years. But it will.

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Blogger Stephanie said...

The new place sounds dreamy . . .

7:01 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

I AM SO GLAD you are posting here again. Happy New Year!

9:25 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Congratulations on the move. The new place sounds lovely!

Thanks for the comment on my blog. Just curious, how did you find it? That is very exciting news about going on the Korea list. We went back on for our 2nd in November too. What agency are you using?

1:28 PM  

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