This season many of us are celebrating a birth. But for my family this year feels more like a re-birth. After 32 years, we moved from our house on Beloit. It had more space than we needed. It was too expensive and too much to keep up. Like many folks, it was time to downsize.
The house had served us well. It gave us the room to raise four kids. We hosted family parties and get-togethers with friends and neighbors. Neighborhood kids came over to play. The backyard was a stadium. The basement was a basketball court. Soccer was played in the kitchen and football in the living room. We even invented our own sport, “rough basketball,” for the toy room.
The toy room morphed into the music room. The basketball court became a finished basement. We are leaving the property in better shape than we found it. We are also leaving behind many good memories. Neighbors came and went. Some became close friends. There was a parade of fresh faces living in the apartment building next door. The block turned over, with young families replacing many of the old-timers.
The question was, where would old-timers like us end up living? My worst fear was to wind up in a sterile suburban condo. Staying in Forest Park was a priority. We were fortunate to find a coach house for rent on Wilcox. We had begun our marriage 38 years ago in a coach house, so it seemed fitting to return to one for our “golden years.”
This place is over 100 years old but has many modern conveniences. For the first time in my life, I have central heat and air conditioning. No more “heat-a-rators” as the kids called them. I have an ice cube dispenser, after a lifetime of filling trays. Most importantly, I have a front porch for the first time in my life.
The porch runs the length of the place and we sat out there as much as we could, until the cold drove us indoors. There we enjoy the woodwork and plaster walls that give the place so much character. I’m sure the feeling will wear off but every day in our new place feels like a vacation.
It also feels like we’re living in a location far removed from busy Beloit Avenue. It reminds me of the Shire in “The Hobbit:” A quiet enclave of cozy homes. At the same time, we’re so close to the Blue Line, I can hear “Doors Closing” from my porch.
Our new neighbors are quiet and respectful. Our place has kind of a Rear Window vibe, though none of the neighbors are knife salesmen and no wives have disappeared. It is so peaceful to live on a dead-end street. Yet we’re only a short walk from Madison Street.
We’re enjoying our personal rebirth, while it feels like the whole town is being reborn. New leaders are replacing the old guard. We have a new director at the Park District, while the 209 Together coalition continues to improve the high schools. We have new candidates running for village council.
These changes are needed. Forest Park has become a community of “lifers,” “townies” and “newcomers.” The way the town is changing is dismaying to some “lifers.” But the “newcomers” I’ve spoken with don’t want to alter Forest Park’s unique character. They just want to develop a new vision for how our town can adapt to changing times.
We don’t seek major changes, but life can be better when we let go of the things that no longer work for us.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com