Hitting the Park Ridge jackpot: How a global pandemic helped showcase how great our neighborhood really is
By Trent Modglin
Many of you reading this probably have a move-from-the-city story. It seems like most people we meet in Park Ridge lived a chunk of their 20s and/or 30s living in Chicago before making the inevitable progression to the burbs.
We were no different. When we knew the time was right, the allure of Park Ridge’s school system, sense of community and proximity to the city drew us in. We moved here in August of 2019 and immediately realized we made the right decision. But after several lengthy (and expensive) home-improvement projects, a dreary winter and two city sewer backups in a newly remodeled basement over a span of three days, I have to admit: We were starting to wonder.
And then, the Covid pandemic hit, vacations were canceled and a wonderful year of kindergarten was reduced to uploading photos of completed workbook pages and occasional living-room Zoom sessions.
But that’s where the silver lining comes in, because interestingly enough, it wasn’t until Covid forced us into a quarantine in the spring did we fully recognize the fact that we hit the proverbial jackpot with our neighborhood.
Unrelenting schedules that had us all scurrying off to school events, swim lessons or meetings, and the quick waves of acknowledgement to each other while pulling out of the driveway, soon gave way to long walks as a family, overdue landscaping projects in the yard and get-to-know-you chats with the neighbors. Socially distanced, of course.
Things slowed down, we learned to appreciate the little things more, and to have actual conversations. And in doing so, it didn’t take my family long to realize how great the people are all around us.
As the weather warmed and Covid regulations were lessened, neighbor kids — even the older ones — began knocking at the door, asking if my six-year-old wanted to ride bikes to the playground or, you know, just hang. Which is a great feeling for any parent.
And that’s what we adults did too. We hung out regularly — sometimes planned, often spontaneously — rotating from one driveway or backyard to another, sharing stories, e-learning miscues and plenty of laughs. Not to mention plenty of beer, wine and a homemade Polish espresso vodka concoction that’s so smooth it should be selling off the shelves at Binny’s. There are lifelong friends here, I’m sure of it.
So here we are, months later, and the connection between this large, eclectic, generous group of neighbors continues to flourish. It would be naïve to assume we would’ve ever grown this close, or enjoyed each other’s company this much, if Covid hadn’t dismantled our sense of normalcy, chaotic as it seemed at times.
Things slowed down, we learned to appreciate the little things more, and to have actual conversations. And in doing so, it didn’t take my family long to realize how great the people are all around us. We did, indeed, hit the neighborhood jackpot here in Park Ridge. Strangely, all it took was a global pandemic to showcase that.