Perfect pieces of Northbrook

Danny Ogranovich, Page Editor

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The Somme Prairie Nature Preserve, Tower Rink and Larrabee Lane (left to right) are three unappreciated locations in Northbrook. Rather than complaining about continuous boredom, there are a plethora of spots in this small town that are unrecognized and are begging to be explored. Photos by Danny Ogranovich
Photo Illustration by Jessica Katz

If you want to complain about Northbrook, don’t come to me. For a long time now, all the way back to the good old days at Greenbriar Elementary, I have been this town’s number one fan. Friends often complain about how boring this place is and how much they’re itching to get out. Let me tell you, kids — I used to be like you.

I remember moving.

I left behind the San Francisco Bay Area hazy hilltops for the cold monotony of Northbrook as an impressionable kindergartner. My old neighbors used to cut towering conifers for nightly summer bonfires. We had a garden that my grandma tended until she died. My brother and I spent sunny Sundays playing in our backyard sandbox while cypresses swayed next to a white wooden fence.

Needless to say, my new Northbrook home did not have a garden, my neighbors did not have bonfires and sunny Sundays were replaced by cold Chicago winter nights. The drive to school every morning took me past generic houses on flat, straight streets. In California, the path to school sloped through tree-lined streets and around sun-filled houses.

Northbrook seemed like a boring existence after my California daydream. Convinced anywhere and anything was better than my new home, I would tell myself this town was devoid of fun while I sat alone in my bedroom, not searching for anything to do. My parents were content with leaving me inside to play video games, watch TV and then rinse and repeat. Every. Single. Day. My family had persuaded ourselves that boredom was inevitable while, rather hypocritically, doing nothing to escape it.

This attitude changed when my third grade class went to visit the Somme Prairie Nature Reserve. Behind our town’s small post office, only accessible through a winding forest preserve path that cut into thick underbrush, lay a field of swaying tall grass — enclosed on all sides, hidden by the forest and fence that surrounded it. That prairie was a place of intrigue in the middle of monotony. Our class spent the day exploring, finding snake holes and spiderwebs until the sun started to dip in the sky. Prior to that experience, nothing in Northbrook had been so memorable.

I’ve come to find that Northbrook is sprinkled with small pockets of bliss. Perpendicular to Lee Road is a street called Larrabee Lane, which is covered by gravel and on fall days looks like a road in hilly Vermont. On misty mornings, quaint houses along the lake in Wood Oaks Park reflect in still, mirror-like water. A stone bridge covered by layers upon layers of graffiti stretches over a calm creek along a path in Chipilly Woods. As sun sets over the Willowhill Golf Course, you can see the Chicago skyline shimmering through the clouds like a faraway civilization dotting the suburban landscape. Summer nights hanging out in the Village Green, warm days spent biking through local neighborhoods, winter skating at the field next to the library, on and on. In a town where everywhere seems to be so much of the same, I went looking to find something new — and I found it.

I have gone from a sad Californian kindergartner to being proud of this town’s awesomeness. But it feels like I’m the only one. Everyone wants to get out. More and more of my friends want to end up in big cities, the West Coast, the East Coast, anywhere that isn’t here. They come up with a whole list of arguments, most of which are very reasonable. More opportunities, more culture, and of course, better weather. Even I envision myself ending up in a city and leaving Northbrook behind.

But people would rather disregard this place entirely than recognize it for what it truly is — home, and a good one. All around us are good times, areas to explore and memories to be made.

My suggestion? Spend more time looking for great places rather than complaining about their “lack of existence.” Personally, I’m not done exploring, and you shouldn’t be either. Northbrook is our home and if you treat it with respect, then maybe it will give you something you never expected.

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Perfect pieces of Northbrook