I less-than-three Chicago. Which is my dry humor way of making fun of myself. I do love Chicago, though.
I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and even though we moved around a lot, it was always around middle-ish class neighborhoods in Wayne County. I loved it. I liked living close to malls, long bike rides through subdivisions without any adults, feeling tough in high school because we had metal detectors and had to worry about the gang that would hang out near the bridge. When I was half way through high school, my parents up and moved us to a rural town about an hour west. The town is so tiny that it only has one, red blinking stop light. You have to drive through about 20 minutes of corn fields and tractors in order to reach something with more than a grocery store everyone calls "Rancid's" and a pizza place that keeps going out of business. But I fell in love. Walks down quiet dirt roads, bonfires after harvest time, piling everyone into the back of a pick up truck without shocks so we didn't have to pay for extra cars to get in at the state parks. The people were nicer, the pace was slower, no one cared if my nails were the right shade of silver. When Matt and I got married and moved to Florida one year later, I was sure I was sunk. I mean, I thought anything above 70* was too warm! But by the time we left three years later, I had fallen in love again. Swimming in the Gulf in March, geckos scurrying across the sidewalks, the warm, salty air permeating the entire city. Summers were still tough, but I could see how quickly I'd acclimated and knew it would only get easier. If Matt had found a job in Naples, I wouldn't have minded.
So why am I so surprised that I fell in love with Chicago? Sure it was a culture shock moving to the third biggest city in the nation, but I quickly overcame it and now I don't want to leave. I love Chicago, being able to take public transportation, the character of the buildings, the history behind every neighborhood, the way the whole city loves the bears even when they suck. Living here means that we can take our time seeing the sites, waiting until the weather and the finances line up. I love being able to walk to church, the library, the grocery store (although I usually drive to one outside of the city limits), the beach, the park, McDonald's. I love that there is always something going on outside my 1920s windows. Chicago really does have a small-town feel of friendly neighbors, dads teaching their kids to ride bikes and dodge joggers. Strangers smiling and saying "hi" as you pass by. There are bad things too, like when we got robbed our first month here. But I like the good more than I hate the bad.
Of all the places we've lived: the rural, suburban, urban, the snowy north, the sub-tropics, I like Chicago the best. I wanna live here in somewhere with assigned parking. Since Matt has a job lined up in Michigan, it isn't likely that I'll get my wish any time soon. But maybe someday I'll get to call Chicago "home" again. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my last 5.5 months in the Windy City. I'm going to make as many memories as I can to keep me occupied until I can come back.
Chicago, will you be my valentine? Because I really less-than-three you.