50 Years of Running: New situations, new locations

Mu daughter Emily at our first home in Geneva. My late wife’s garden was her favorite avocation.

Starting the new job at the Daily Herald newspaper felt a bit like coming home again. But that wasn’t the only way that life felt like it was getting back to normal. The year that I joined Aspen Marketing we made a family decision to move from the White Bread America town of Geneva to a bit more ethnically diverse Batavia. I’d driven the move for the most part. We recognized that our boy and girl needed their own rooms now that they were in 1st and fourth grade. Having spent years working in Batavia and volunteering with guys whose kids attended the schools, I knew the community well enough to call around and figure out a way to find a home there.

We hooked up with a Realtor to help us find a new place. My wife had specific instructions. “No Split Levels,” she told him. He nodded and said, “Gotcha.”

When it came time to tour houses, the first house we visited was a split level on the southern edge of Geneva. My wife glanced at me, looking disturbed. But the realtor was the father of a close friend, so we said nothing. Stepping inside the house, I was shocked to see the walls next to the stairway covered floor-to-ceiling in mirrors. Next to the door,, there was a giant, bowling-ball-sized hole in the wall. The Realtor almost choked on his words as he invited us to tour the house. We walked upstairs to find a giant iguana sitting inside a massive dirty aquarium. It glared at us as my wife turned to both of us and said, “I think we’ve seen enough here.”

We toured several other houses on our trip that day, but none in Batavia. I asked why, and the Realtor told me there weren’t many homes on the market there. The next day, I decided to drive the streets and see the situation for myself.

With an interest in older, more established neighborhoods rather than the cookie-cutter houses being thrown together on the edge of town, I drove down Route 31 to the west side of town. Pulling onto Maple Lane, I drove past low-slung ranches and other modest homes. “This looks good,” I told myself. Then I turned on Republic Road, a street that runs several blocks bordering the large park surrounding Memorial Field on the east side.

There, on the front lawn of a white ranch home, was a sign that read For Sale by Owner. I parked the car, walked up to the house, and noticed that the stones forming the front were limestone and sandstone. Two tall white pines towered over the driveway. I’ve always loved white pines. They remind me of the north woods and wild places.

367 Republic Road. The place is not well-tended these days, but the basketball hoop I installed years ago is still standing.

Walking around the back of the house, I spied a glass-enclosed porch with the window shades rolled down. However, I could peek between the blinds and saw a composed of red-stained knotty pine. “Oh My God,” I said out loud. “I love this place.”

It only took one phone call to reach the man selling the home. His name was Bart, and the home had been his father’s place for many years. “The family was thinking of keeping it,” he told me. “But our stepmother wants the money. So we’re going to sell it. The going price was $170,000, a fair deal for a ranch home. “We want to buy it,” I told him.

“Great,” he replied. “The family wants it to go to a couple that appreciates the house.”

We called the bank and got the loan moving. I drove down the next day before work at Aspen to snoop around some more, I could see that the floor plan was largely open with a large front window. A part of me was nervous about acting so quickly to buy a home. I’d only been working at Aspen a few months. Upon mentioning my plans to a co-worker, he looked at me and said, “Pretty bold buying a new house when you’re only been here a month or two.”

The way I saw it, we had no choice. The home we owned on Anderson Boulevard in Geneva was only 750 feet of living space, and half of that was comprised of a basement with profound leakage problems. Whenever a hard rain came, the water poured in streams from the floor and wall seam to a series of drainage holes in the floor. After the rain subsided and the water stopped running, a spate of “water bugs,” better known as cockroaches, would invade the homes. Sometimes we resorted to setting off a “bug bomb” pesticide to kill them off. Then I’d scrape them up with paper towels and conduct a funeral pyre outside with a bit of lighter fluid and paper towels. “Die, you fuckers,” I’d mutter.

Definitely the culprits.

The kicker for me was the night that I came into my son’s room and turned on the light to see a roach crawling across his forehead. After that, I didn’t care what it took to get out of that place. We were moving.

Leaving it behind

The negotiations with Bart about the Batavia place continued. “I have an absolute deadline. We have to get this thing done by April 1st. Can I count on you to make that happen?”

“Yes,” I told him. Then I called the mortgage broker we used and she said, “Well, I hope we can hit that deadline.” And she did.

Closing on the house went quickly, but before all that took place, I asked Bart if we could get into the house to tear up the green carpet covering the living room floor and hallways. During one of the house tours, I’d pulled at the edge of the shag to find a layer of fine oak floors beneath. “Well, I shouldn’t do this, but I trust you,” Bart told me. So we hired a floor contractor called Bill and Sid’s Most Excellent Floor Refinishing. They tore up all the carpet and refinished the floors with a water-based varnish. The place looked awesome. Bart was a good man to let us do all that before moving in.

Then we closed on the loan and Bart got his check to satisfy the stepmom. We shook hands and he said “Thanks for making this happen.” I smiled and said, “Same. You’re a good man.”

My kids loved the new place, especially having their own bedrooms. They also liked the old Princess telephones that had neither a # or a * button. The prior owner had worked for Illinois Bell and the old equipment, including an in-house intercom system, still worked. He’d also left behind a line of tamarack trees transplanted south from their Wisconsin vacations.

Moving day

So we moved our stuff out of the Geneva place with the help of friends and settled into life in Batavia. We even hauled along a set of smooth river rocks gathered from a spot where a stream emptied into Lake Superior neared Porcupine Mountain.

Heading into first grade, my daughter Emily had not yet learned to ride her two-wheel bike before we moved. The big driveway in front of the new house served as an encouragement to her riding skills. She dumped the training wheels soon and spent her time circling round and round under the shade of the giant white pines.

The sprinklers watering the family garden in Batavia.

My wife Linda invited her mom out to help her tear up large chunks of lawn and convert it to garden. We painted the walls pale green but left the wallpaper that while old in design still had major integrity. It had been originally hung in 1956 when the house was built. However, we tore up the green linoleum floor in the kitchen with its swooping sides and pock marks from all those years when the former woman of the house made meals while wearing high heels.

Then we ordered the most comfortable sofa in the world from Wickes Furniture. It lasted us twenty years before the piping frayed. That sofa served as “home” for us in so many ways that it’s hard to describe how important it was to all our lives. I’d come home from work or a run or a ride and could flop on that smooth fabric and not itch. Plus the couch and chair was wide enough to truly stretch out. At times, I loved that goddamned sofa as much as life itself. But it finally did wear out. I cried while putting it out to the curb.

Training grounds

One of the other great parts of living where we did was the access to running routes of all kinds. The Fox River Trail was just a mile away, offering unlimited protected running in both directions. I’d raced and won races on that trail, so the associations were forever positive. I could head south to North Aurora for a ten-miler or north to Geneva for an eight-miler. While I was no longer running tons of miles, it felt great to go out in any direction and have a fun time.

Linda also liked the house location. She walked a route the first day that we moved in and used the same route from that point forward during all twenty-plus years that we lived there. She never varied her course. Nothing provides a sense of security like repetition, and she never had problems with anyone bothering her on that route, so she trusted it. I had my share of favorite running routes too, including the quick three-miler down to the west side trail and back. Familiarity is encouraging in some ways. You know how much time it will take, and the seasons take care of enough changes to make things interesting. New situations and new locations are great, but so is the feeling that you have a few things under control. That’s a rare thing in this world.

Sadly, we quickly learned that the Batavia home also had its share of water problems. Even with a waterproofing system built into the home, the west side of the house faced a key groundwater source. During heavy rains, the window wells would fill up and water would come streaming in. The chimney was also cracked, and water would fly into the furnace room as it followed the vent. I called the waterproofing company multiple times for new and more power sump pumps, and we gladly paid the $50 annual renewal fee to keep the contract in place. Sometimes life is about the most basic things, and not letting problems get ahead of you. That was a lesson I was finally learning after hitting the age of forty years old.


About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and genesisfix.wordpress.com Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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