Neighborhood girl

I grew up in something that wasn’t a neighborhood. It was a subdivision. I don’t even really know what that means. I’m going to look it up.


“Subdivision” means the division of a lot, tract, or parcel of land into two or more lots, plats, sites, or other divisions of land for the purpose, whether immediate or future, of sale or of building development. It includes resubdivision and, when appropriate to the context, relates to the process of subdividing or to the land or territory subdivided.

Basically, where I grew up put some developer’s kids through college.

Here’s where I start to say to myself: Self, no kvetching. You were plucked at age 6 from a fairly dodgy neighborhood right before it got bad and, although you landed in a uniformly plastic sidewalk-less and tree-starved hinterland accessible only by automobile, you went to a good public school and did not have to carry mace in your little pink backpack.

But I think this is all part of why I love Chicago. I love neighborhoods. I love neighborhoods that grew organically, that began because someone built a home and someone built a deli and someone built a bookstore and someone built a grocer. Probably not in that order. I love sidewalks and big shade trees and brick storefronts. When I took a job at a theater in the neighborhood where I lived, I was embarking on the ultimate fruition of my neighborhoody dreams: living and working in the same place.

This is what I learned:
–There are a lot of nod-based relationships that develop. Often nodding and smiling. I.e., the corner liquor store owner who lets you pay with a card for your $6 six-pack, despite the sign that requires a $10 purchase. The sullen, black eyeliner-wearing video store clerk who bonded with you in line at the Subway and now waves and smiles when she passes you on the street.
–First-name relationships happen. Most notably at coffee shops. Perhaps this is a reflection of my high coffee intake.
–You see things change: puppies growing, kids growing, storefronts changing. When the barber died, someone added a sign that said “PAUL RIP” and a memorial note, on looseleaf paper. Someone wrote in Sharpie on the “Will Re-Open ASAP” sign, “Paul Passed Away”. Through the glass door you can see mail still piling up on the floor in front of the mail slot.

I’m going to wager that I won’t live in the same neighborhood for the rest of my life. That was never the idea. But it’s nice to wear grooves in the same sidewalks, for a little while.

6 thoughts on “Neighborhood girl

  1. As a product of the rural subdivsion, I empathize completely. Though at least you had other little girls with pink backpacks to play with. I had to make friends with the squirrels and rabbits.

  2. Dude, your coffee intake is not “high.” Frequent, perhaps (I’m neither the boss nor the babysitter nor the stalker of you), but “high”? You tremble at the mere smell.

    1. Neither the boss NOR the stalker? You at least attempt to be one of these things at all times. You can’t fool me.

      Maybe my stepping over the threshold of coffee establishments is high. Though my sips are small.

    1. I loved it! I mean, I understand. It’s the sticks. But twisty 1.5-lane roads, fields and trees and bunnies and Handsome Devil were all welcome sights. Plus, you know, you 🙂

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