I like to plan. I like to make lists. I like to get things done. I like that sense of accomplishment. Im usually not a very patient person. To purchase this bungalow from our neighbor, I have had to become a patient person. It has been quite an exercise for me and I’m sure I’ll be a better person because of it.
There have definitely been times over the past two years when I’ve been ready to throw in the towel. Lots of reevaluation. Lots of doubt. Last spring I wondered why we should stay in Morton Grove at all. Yes, they have great schools, and I was a product of them: I grew up in Skokie, which like Morton Grove is part of the Niles Township school district. In fact, Niles Township High Schools were recently awarded the distinction of having the best arts education program in the entire country by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As a professional designer and illustrator, I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the incredible art teachers I had at Niles West. But Pete’s daughters lived with their mother and we don’t have kids together, so schools are not a factor for us.
When I lived in Chicago after college, I vowed that I would never move back to Skokie. Well, I had to take that back after I started dating Pete: Morton Grove is essentially moving back — all my friends were ”Grovers” and they always told me I was an honorary Grover (the Lincolnwood people who also went to Niles West were called Wooders). Actually I knew Pete before we started dating because his sister is one of my best friends from high school and college, and during college I had once been in what is my current house when I went with her to drop something off. I would have NEVER in a million years believed you if you had told me I would be living there 10 years later, let alone that I would be marrying my friend’s brother. Anyway, Pete and I getting together had nothing to do with his divorce, but that’s another story and not for this blog.
I reluctantly moved from my fabulous apartment in the Edgewater neighborhood because Pete already owned the house, and yes, I was in love. Love triumphed over any reservations about moving back to the ”hood”. I’m not bashing Morton Grove, at least not totally. It has a lot going for it, such as:
- It’s very close to downtown Chicago and right off the Edens Expressway. In good traffic we can get downtown in 15 minutes. In rush hour it’s anywhere from 30-45 minutes
- It’s very convenient to both CTA (Skokie Swift) and Metra
- It’s close to lots of great areas like Glenview and Evanston
- The Cook County Forest Preserve runs through it, including bike trails and the north branch of the Chicago River
What I don’t like about Morton Grove:
- I have to go to those other areas for the businesses I like to frequent, especially restaurants and grocery stores
- There is no downtown area. They are supposedly working on such an area in the Lehigh-Ferris district near the Metra station, which is walking distance from our house. But I fear that by the time it gets developed I’ll be too old to enjoy it. I know these things take time, but hurry up, will ya?!
- Because it has no downtown, it’s a drive-thru town. People don’t come here for the quaint restaurants and other amenities — they just drive east down Dempster to get to Evanston or west to the tollway. They used to come here for the fabulous Abt Electronics & Appliance Store, but Abt moved to Glenview when they outgrew their space and Morton Grove couldn’t accommodate them — it was a huge loss. And when you tell people you live in Morton Grove, they politely say, Hmm, gee that’s nice. Or they don’t even know where it is.
Morton Grove had a couple of the best known and largest roadhouses during Prohibition — they had upscale entertainment acts like Duke Ellington — so it was a destination spot back in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s. Not so much anymore. But it has potential! Won’t you move here and help me make it more hip? Please?
So Morton Grove is not my first choice. I would much rather live in Chicago or Evanston, and that’s what I started to explore last year when I grew tired of waiting for the neighbor. Pete went along with it because he knew that I was determined to move, but as a lifelong suburbanite he really wasn’t into moving to Chicago (he complained about the noise at my apartment — the busiest street around was Granville one block away — it’s not like it overlooked Clark Street or anything like that!), and he would always bring up the high property taxes in Evanston. I was undeterred.
In Chicago we looked at a number of bungalows in West Ridge and also in House In Progress’ neighborhood, North Park (because dandelions on the lawn or not, who wouldn’t want to have Aaron and Jeannie as neighbors?!). I wanted to stay within 5 miles of Evanston, where we work, but I also didn’t want to move too far east. There were a lot of really nice houses in both those neighborhoods, but in looking at the restaurants or other amenities surrounding them — places we could walk to — they really weren’t much different from Morton Grove. And most of the bungalows that we saw were flat-front and not octagon-style (or bay-front) with only 2 bedrooms + tandem room. And of course no double lot. But I continued to keep my eye on listings and occasionally I would get antsy and start to reevaluate again, much to Pete’s chagrin.