Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Story Behind The Story

Why Take 90 West?

What exactly does it mean?

When I was first contemplating starting a blog, I would read other blogs and always admire their catchy titles, their play on words or their use of a meaningful bible verse. The more titles I read for inspiration, the bigger blank I drew when it came to naming my own blog.

And then one day, I was driving on the expressway to my home, and it hit me. Take 90 West.

Because I do. Because I did.

I90 is an expressway here in Chicago. In a city that names its expressways after dead people, I90 is pretty major. Closer to downtown, and when you live out in the suburbs you always refer to Chicago as downtown, I90 is known as the Kennedy. Among the other 'named' expressways around here are the Eisenhower, or the Ike, the Stevenson, the Dan Ryan and a few others around town all with equally interesting names. I's weird. Especially the one called the Bishop Ford. Who's he? Is there really a famous Bishop by that name? I've always wondered that. So yeah, basically "Take the Ike east and then south on the Ryan to the Skyway" would be considered actual directions here in Chicago. Anyone not used to driving around here looks at you like you are speaking some form of C-R-A-Z-Y. It wasn't until I actually moved away from Chicago that I realized people actually called roads by their numbers, I10, original, I thought.

When I was growing up in my small Chicago community off the Eisenhower, we never traveled west. It was the suburbs; full of cornfields and neighborhoods without alleys and it was a place the El didn't run.

Then, when I was about 11, my mom, a single, working mother, decided that we needed to get out of the city and head west to the suburbs. The suburbs had better schools, bigger houses, and wide open spaces. So we loaded up our truck and we moved to Beverly. Hills, that is.

No, no, no. But you get the idea. We sold the house, and moved to the suburbs. And lo and behold...we had a garage attached to our actual house. It was like arriving in the land of OZ.

And as the suburbs of Chicago go, DuPage County is a great place to grow up. You know, your typical place to find privileged, spoiled, know it all, private school attending, teenagers. All in all, not a bad gig if you can get it.

I left for college and spent some years in the south. I stayed in the south for a while, worked various jobs, spent a lot of time on the beach, got married, spent more time on the beach, travelled around the Caribbean as much as possible, and basically just lived for each day, no plans, no schedule, no worries.

Then, we decided to grow up. My husband and I took a trip up North to visit family and friends and we both agreed how much we missed Chicago. It felt like home. So, in 1997, we packed up, left the sand at the beach and came home.

We settled in a trendy, urban, upscale community. We got real jobs, bought nice cars and left our beach wandering lifestyle far behind. We rented an apartment, got a dog, and spent Saturday mornings buying organic fruits and vegetables at the local farmers market. We decorated with cream slipcovers and fresh flowers, and we went out to eat where ever we pleased. It did not matter to us what kind of macaroni and cheese a restaurant served. Our throw pillows stayed on the couch, we slept late, spent Sundays watching football, and we saw a movie every week. We watched the TV shows we wanted too, we visited friends and family and there was not a chicken nugget to be found in our freezer.

And then, we got pregnant.

And we were thrilled. We were excited and scared and happy and nervous all at the same time. We traded in our 1 bedroom apartment for 2, we put a car seat in the back of our import and we spent our weekends roaming through the aisles of Babies*R*Us like kids in a candy store.

Life was changing.

By 1999 we had had 2 beautiful little girls, 16 months apart, I had quit my job, we had bought a small, 100 year old bungalow in a beautiful community that we were going to happily spend our time 'rehabbing' and our kids could have been the cover girls for a 'Growing Up Urban' magazine. We went to museums, parks, the lakefront. We dined out, sent the kids to the 'best' preschool and pondered why anyone in their right minds would ever live out in the suburbs.

About the time we were convinced we would be city dwellers 'till the end of time, real estate prices in our community skyrocketed, the housing market was booming, and in our neighborhood the demand for homes was greater than the supply. If we were to sell our little bungalow, our first home, we would double our money. In just 5 years. Double!

It was an amazing opportunity. The only downside being, the bigger home that we dreamed of owning, was not going to be possible for us to afford on one income in our existing community. Our homes value was not the only one that had skyrocketed.

So began the debate of selling and moving to the *gasp* suburbs. We thought, we pondered, we contemplated, we argued, we made lists, we flipped a coin, we debated, we even played rock, paper, scissors. We just could not decide. Was the grass greener in the land of subdivisions and strip malls?

On top of that, after 3 years of being a family of 4, we were about to become 5. And suddenly, it was a no brainer. Our small bungalow did not have enough room for 5. We barely had enough room for 4. And with two, soon to be three small children, our time spent 'rehabbing' the old money pit was increasingly scarce. We suddenly wanted bigger, better and newer. We would forgo the culture and the public transportation for a laundry room on the main level and lights that didn't dim when the dishwasher started running. Instead of taking the green line to work, my husband would take the Metra. was in the air.

So we took the plunge, sold our first home, and bought a house in the 'burbs. Even farther West than DuPage County. *huge gasp*

We hopped on I90 and drove West. To a place I never thought I would end up.

Yet, here we are...with the attached garage, the 5 bedrooms, never ending laundry, 4 kids, and a dog. There is not a skyline view to be found from our neighborhood, but soccer games, swim meets and candle parties abound.

And you know what? I was wrong about the suburbs.

Life is good out here.


Jenny from Chicago said...

You had a bungalow? I'm beginning to think we can't be friends. I'm so jealous.

Jenny is Live & in Color said...

My husband was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital, north of Chicago. We lived there almost four years. Since my family is in Grand Rapids, MI, we often drove through "downtown." It would take my breath away every time we approached the city. It's neat to read the names of all the highways that we used to know so well.
Now our "downtown" is D.C. even though it's an hour away!

Beth F. said...

I adore this post. I don't know if it's because you sound like you are describing my old life in Chicago or I miss so very much, but I love, love, love this post.

Your take on the expressway names is hysterical.

Jennifer said...

What a great story! Thanks for sharing.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

I love the highway names. That cracks me up. We go by numbers here in the NorthEast :) Funny what ya learn while blogging.

This was a great post. I loved it! I envy your time in the Carribean.

I love hearing the route to where you ended up.

Family Adventure said...

This is a great post. I really love the way you look back at how your life evolved, and seeing the positives in all phases. I eventually ended up in the 'burbs', too, and, I agree with you, not a bad place at all :)
- Heidi

HoorayForSaturday said...

Wow...I miss Chicago. I don't miss Naperville, but I do miss Chicago.

JanMary said...

I love this post too - I am now subscribing to your blog :)

Pickel said...

I just happened upon you blog today and I don't know how but the name caught me. I am a 90 wester too. 90 west to Randall Rd.

Kane County nearly all my life (except for my 5 year stint in Michigan).

We have a bungalow now and I'm in heaven.