For my family, the pandemic inspired a lot of introspection and big decisions. One decision — to sell our house — led to this letter. I’m sharing not because my perspective is unique, but because I believe many of us feel romantic about the place we call home. I hope you enjoy.
When I first saw you, your beautiful front door drew me in, as did the little front balcony above it, but I also noticed that someone had painted your beautiful copper gutters white and covered your beadboard soffits with aluminum.
Stepping inside, the charm of your age made me smile — like the 1920s mosaic flooring of the outer entry and powder room, the original mail slot built into the brick, the hardwood floors, arched entries, French doors, and 1920s hardware.
But 1970s carpet covered the stairs and the entire second floor. Decades-old wallpaper, intercoms and a tiny kitchen fitted with more ’70s soffits made it feel even smaller. There was only one bathroom upstairs and no air-conditioning. But I knew we could be happy living inside your walls.
You were lovely and solid, an interesting mix of architectural influences, and you were across from a big park. I was pregnant with our first child, longing for more space and fewer stairs than our Wrigleyville townhome. I didn’t know a lot about Oak Park back then, but what I knew, I liked — its proximity to the city, diversity and varied historic architecture.
We made an offer — it was the first day you were on the market and we’d seen enough to know you wouldn’t last long enough to weigh the pros, cons or costs of renovation. I thought you might be our five- to seven-year house. After all, I loved renovation and design, and I assumed we’d fix you up and move on to the next.
Frankly, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere longer than that. I’d lived in Maryland, Texas, Virginia, New York and Chicago. I’ve always welcomed change and had a bit of wanderlust.
But here we are, 20 years later. As it turns out, you were all we needed. Yes, the kids’ bedrooms aren’t huge, but it meant our kids spent a lot of time outside of them. Yes, the lot, typical of Oak Park, wasn’t big like the half-acre suburban lots of my childhood, but it meant we spread out beyond its borders.
What I never appreciated before coming to Oak Park was that when homes are close, so, too, become the neighbors. I’d never grown up with block parties. Here, community takes on new meaning. Summers, and even some falls, meant parties in the street with everyone who cared to join the fun.
Our kids could not only run back and forth in pajamas on Christmas morning to the neighbor’s house, but our dogs (thanks to a little doggie door we built into the fence) could have their own playdates and secondary homes to enjoy too.
We added baths and central air, renovated everything, expanded the kitchen, stripped away the ’70s remnants, and ripped off that aluminum from your soffits. And every time we considered moving, when the ebbs and flows of life and finances made us wonder if it was time to sell you, our best investment, we could never do it.
We always ended up feeling lucky to have you — living within a short walk to the elementary school that was perfect for our kids and where we all made lifelong friends; living by Taylor Park, with its meandering sidewalks where I strolled our babies and walked dogs, where our toddlers played on the playground, and our teens hung out with friends; and where we had neighbors we treasured — next-door, across the street, behind the alley and down the road.
Over the years I learned a little about your history. I found a real estate listing from your youth, discovering that, in 1935, your “coal room” in the basement was a selling feature and your price tag was $15,000.
I learned that the first owners were the builder and his bride who celebrated their wedding here, and the bride threw her bouquet of flowers from the front balcony toward a sea of friends in the yard. They had five kids and left when the Depression struck. I know these details because that man’s daughter paid us a visit and his grandchild lives up the street.
You have been our shelter and protector, silently comforting us when life knocked us down. You’ve been a host to countless parties, the dining room becoming a dance floor for my husband’s 40th birthday party, the entire first floor filling each winter for our progressive euchre tournament with neighborhood friends. Your backyard has hosted birthday parties, happy hours and graduation celebrations.
Well, the time has finally come. Our kids are grown. Our next chapter and adventure beckons.
But leaving you is more emotional than I ever thought it could be. The laughs, tears, highs and lows of our family have happened inside your walls. You are the backdrop to our most treasured family memories.
You are not a house. You are layers of growth, change, heartbreak, laughter and love. But like Toy Story’s Woody, you are meant for kids and I know that our time here is just a chapter in your life story. Thank you for taking care of us all these years. We will miss you.
P.S. Don’t be alarmed if every so often we drive by to say hello.