It's been twenty years and it still doesn't feel like home.
Twenty or so years ago, when my husband and I made the decision to buy our first home, we were living in a gorgeous three-bedroom apartment in a vintage three-flat in the Rogers Park neighborhood, of Chicago.
Preferably, we would have remained in. the city but we knew that the market was asking far more than we could bear. So we put our trust in a very savvy and kind realtor who helped us in our search.
We knew we'd have to migrate to a suburb, but the question was which one? The northern suburbs like Arlington Heights, Morton Grove and Skokie (where I grew up) were, again, way out of our league. So our realtor cast a wider net and showed us homes in Itasca, Wooddale, and Mundelein.
Admittedly, I knew nothing about these towns other than they were a significant hike from the ad agency where I worked in downtown Chicago, just one block east of Michigan Avenue. It was a relatively easy commute from our apartment but that was about to change and drastically.
One day, our realtor showed us a home in Elgin (again, which we knew nothing about, other than the watch factory), that was too good to pass up. It checked all our boxes. It was affordable, spacious, and in move-in condition. Plus, the sellers couldn't be nicer or more helpful to us first-time home buyers.
Without going into too much detail, I lost my advertising gig in a mass layoff and ultimately found my dream job in the suburb of West Chicago, so my terrible commute didn't last long.
As I think about this, losing that job of fifteen years in 2018, incited a dramatic shift in my thinking about the town I'd lived for so many years. Why? Because I was around more. At home. And it hit me that our neighbors weren't neighborly, some of the residents were increasingly loud and obnoxious, and Elgin, as a whole, was rather depressing
In my opinion, aside from an exceptional library and a well-known symphony orchestra, there's little to do or see here. One has to drive everywhere and the downtown has experienced little if any revitalization.
Too, when stores and other businesses close here, they close for good. God forbid a Trader Joe's should open up in my neck of the woods. Or, a Mariano's. We hayseeds can't have that. And, there are a lot of hayseeds around here who are perfectly happy with the status quo. But, that's another story.
A "restaurant scene" is nonexistent in Elgin. There are chains aplenty, but if you want a walk-in Thai storefront, you can forget about it.
To be fair, there is a beautiful side to Elgin. And, that's called the "affluent side." You know, where the rich people live. In veritable mansions set far away from the rabble. I'd love to be able to afford that. Hell, I'd love to be able to afford to move, but, these days, the housing market is insane, and the move itself would cost a fortune.
And lest I forget, there's the noise. "Neighbors" who don't give a damn that it's after ten pm and some of us are either in bed or trying to read a book. Probably because a book is a foreign object to many of them. I know that's harsh, but try putting up with nightly fireworks for months.
Looking around this town, it's apparent that the Elgin City Council doesn't give a damn for its residents. Padding their pockets from inane fines citing "too many dandelions" is more to their liking.
As I've written in the past, speed-racing down residential streets is a massive problem, here. Recently, I spoke with the "community liaison officer from the Elgin Police Department, about this. He admitted that this is an ongoing issue and they're "aware" of it.
He also told me something that made my head spin because it was so outrageous.
"We can't chase these people because it's too dangerous."
Let that sink in for a minute. So, the cops can't chase the perpetrators who endanger the lives of others by speeding, because it's too dangerous? HUH??
I suppose that means they can't chase actual criminals, either. Good to know. Our tax dollars at work.
Assumedly, if the speeding were taking place in one of Elgin's more affluent neighborhoods, there would be a different outcome.
Finally, I mean no disrespect to those of you who've grown up in Elgin, Illinois. You probably have a totally different perspective. This is merely mine.
I'll finish by saying that Elgin does have rolling hills, beautiful fauna and flora, and all manner of birds that sing me awake in spring and summer mornings. So, there is at least that.
Sherry McGuinn, 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Sherry McGuinn is a slightly twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. She is currently pitching her newest screenplay, “The Month We Fell Apart,” a drama with dark, comedic overtones inspired by a true story, as well as “DEAD TIRED,” a female-driven, erotic thriller.