On this beautiful sunny day, I strolled through the neighborhood, buoyed by Claritin. This was the first such destinationless stroll this year, and it was divine. The air was clean and crisp – a nice 65 degrees with a slightly nipping wind in the shade, but beautiful sun permeated the trees.
I had nowhere to go or be, so I meandered through streets I don’t usually wander through. I deviated from the main streets and drank in the neighborhood in springtime. It was all very suburban – kids galore, out on bikes and kicking soccer balls around. There were even a couple moments reminiscent of driver’s ed videos, with kids darting into the street after a wiffleball without checking for traffic. But you can get away with that through much of the neighborhood.
There were blocks of old houses like mine, and a few blocks of identical ranches houses with only slight variations on shutter color and front door placement. There were a couple blocks of all brick homes, built in the 20s to replace the blocks destroyed by Elgin’s infamous 1920 Palm Sunday tornado.
I walked past tiny local businesses I never realized were there in my car-fueled haste. I stopped into Herb’s Bakery, which I’ve heard so much about, only to find their selection picked over and sparse. I never realized just how many tiny auto repair shops are in the neighborhood. I suppose it comes with being a less affluent area. I also passed dozens of homes for sale, and a couple with the tell-tale signs of foreclosure – including one on my corner.
But that’s what I love about Elgin and my neighborhood. There’s so much diversity in the houses and the people who live in them. When I was house-hunting, I was adamant about not wanting to live in a cookie-cutter subdivision where an overzealous homeowners’ association dictates house colors and suitable flowers for planting. Sure, the lack of such covenants does open the door for the occasional teal house or the pink bodega, and you get your fair share of tall, unkempt lawns – but it always provides conversation. For example, in my neighborhood, there’s a parakeet house, where the screened in front porch is filled with at least a dozen cages packed with the birds. You can hear it a block away!
I’m looking forward to many more such walks in the warming weather. I bike a lot, too, but even at 10 mph, you miss a lot of the details.