My Love/Hate Relationship with Suburbia

I have a classic Love/Hate Relationship with where I live.  Not specifically the town but the suburbs in general.  This actually may be a cautionary “be careful what you wish for” type of thing for me.

You see I grew up living out in the country.  Now by out in the country I don’t mean like Kansas where your nearest neighbor is ten miles away.  But many people who know where my mom’s house is joke about how far out it is.  My husband loves to joke that they have to pipe in sunlight.  Its truly not that far out, there is a small town about 10 minutes away and some of the more suburban areas can now easily be reached in 20 minutes thanks to suburban spread.  But when I was a kid it took 30 minutes to get anywhere.  My closest school friends lived 2 miles away – even the ones that rode the same school bus.  Luckily when I was in 2nd grade the elderly couple that lived “next” to us sold their house to a family with three kids – two boys and one girl the boys 1 and 3 years older than me.  I finally had someone to play with in the summer!

Also when I was a kid I loved to read (insert geek here).  Unfortunately my mom bought me lots of things to read including books and magazines.  I read for hours about neighborhood block parties, lemonade stands, holding recycling drives, bake sales, garage sales …. you name it they suggested it for kids to help plan and organize.  I imagined a world where going out for dinner wasn’t a two hour round trip.  And I dreamed of this utopia of never ending things to do and wished whole heartedly that we lived in a “neighborhood.”  Never in a “neighborhood” would you spend a summer evening sitting on the front porch with your grandmother drinking iced tea and watching lightening bugs or watching a storm roll in over the cornfield.  In a “neighborhood” there would be endless children to play with, bike rides to take and a never ending barbecue in someone’s back yard.  I thought it would be great.

So here I sit…. in my “neighborhood.”  And it’s a nice neighborhood with a good school system and plenty of opportunities for kids to join sports, music, dance…whatever they want.  The closest grocery store is about 1 minute from my house by car or you can easily ride your bicycle to it on the beautifully maintained pathways.  There is mall, plenty of shopping and every chain restaurant from Applebee’s to Qdoba.  There is a multitude of beautiful parks all connected by a trail system so you can ride your bike anywhere, and the  Pièce de résistance a 3.1 acre outdoor waterpark (not just a pool) connected to a 113,000 square foot recreation center which houses a 20,000 square foot indoor waterpark (again not just a pool).  And typically during the summer we are out on the street for hours talking to neighbors while kids play and someone cooks burgers or hot dogs on the grill.  And I do enjoy all of these things – the convenience of it all.

But….  I also didn’t realize when signing up for utopia that after so many garage sales, bake sales and neighborhood block parties that I would burn out.  I also think a lot of it has to do with how deep in suburbia I am submerged.  The school colors are red, white and blue, there are illuminated street signs, there are specially designed street signs by all the schools in red, white and blue complete with the school mascot,several roundabouts and the rear window of every minivan and SUV (mine included)  is plastered with football helmets, baseballs or megaphones with names like “Olivia” & “Joshua.”   Image is everything in the suburbs.  The problem is…. image isn’t everything to me so I don’t exactly fit in.  I try.  But when I run into some of the Barbie super moms in their matching Nike workout clothes at the recreation center and I’m dressed in my husbands old fire dept t-shirt and a pair of “Hanes Her Way” sweatpants I realize I don’t fit in.

I live in the middle of sit-com and late night comedian fodder.  And as much as I love the convenience of having anything I could possibly want within arms reach I can’t always handle the social requirements of utopia.  Actually that’s not true either.  I handle them as gracefully as possible given my lack of growing up in the suburbs.  And I smile and nod a lot.  And I’ve learned that you can hide in the pet food aisle in the grocery until the really awful mom from your daughters class checks out so you can avoid even having to say “hello” to her.  And while hiding in the pet food aisle I long to be able to spend summer nights sitting on the front porch, drinking iced tea and watching a summer storm roll in over the cornfield – where I know that the next time I go the grocery store absolutely nobody would know who I am.



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