A Year in Suburbia

{Photo: www.ohdeedoh.com}

This week marks a full year since we packed up our city life and moved to the suburbs. And not only did we live to tell, but you know what?  I love it.  It’s true.

Most of the time. 

However, after 365 days in this new world, I’m here to report there are still a few things that I could do without:

  • The reliance on a car:  I miss walking all over the place.  Of course, I can walk in the suburbs — it’s permitted — but the truth is that the car is usually the more realistic option.  And along with that comes the endless in-and-out-of-the-car seats nonsense that makes me just a little more insane every day.
  • Lack of anonymity:  In the city, there wasn’t any small talk or chit-chat with strangers.  And that was fine by me.  I’m terrible with small talk.  It was perfectly acceptable to stand in your building’s lobby and stare straight ahead while waiting for the elevator.  I did have some very sweet, older widows who lived on my floor, and it was nice that they stopped to check in on me when I was very pregnant (though there was a certain “Rosemary’s Baby” vibe that I tried not to overblow) — but they stayed largely out of my business.  I’ve since had to re-learn social graces like inviting someone in when they knock on my door.  The week we moved into our house, several families stopped by with trays of  cookies and cakes to welcome us.  I have to be honest — it freaked me out a bit.  And as I reluctantly opened my door to them, all I could wonder was if I now have to bake every time someone moves into the neighborhood.
  • No quick errands:  At times, I miss the corner bodega more than I can express.  Like when I just need a can of beans to finish a recipe.  No problem — I’ll just walk to the corner and…nevermind.  Now it’s back in the car, finding parking, going through the whole big grocery store.  It  just takes longer than it’s worth.  {That’s right, I don’t have much patience.  I’m not really working on it but I will own it.}
  • New Jersey Transit and the PATH Train:  They are the 8th and 9th circles of Hell, respectively.  I never thought I could miss the NYC MTA so damn much.  It’s a well-oiled machine by comparison.
  • Suburban Starbucks:  Yes, I have a Starbucks problem.  You know it and I know it.  Now, if we’re all done judging me for my overpriced coffee habit, can we just weep in solidarity over the hoops I must jump through to secure this beverage?  Before, I walked to the corner.  Now, I drive (just a mile, but a drive nonetheless).  I circle for parking.  I pay for parking.  And I have to make small talk while waiting for my coffee.  I really think there’s a viable business model in a Starbucks Addict Premium Delivery Service.  I know I’m not alone here, or the green coffee goddess wouldn’t still be in business.
  • BYOB:  I know that, in many respects, it’s better that you have to bring your own booze to restaurants. It’s cheaper.  You get what you want.  There are many upsides.  Except when you are me (or my husband) and you never, ever remember that this is part of going out to dinner in our town.  And then what — a dry meal?  Uh, no, sir.  It’s instead this: “You run, as fast as you fucking can, to the wine store, before they close — quick!! — and I’ll find an appetizer on the menu to order for you” (translation: an appetizer of my choosing so that I can enjoy half of it).

OK, OK — I sound horrible, I know.  So let’s be nice to Suburbia — she has quite a lot to offer.  Though my love affair with her started slowly, I am now pretty enamored.  And even though New York City will always be my first geographic love — I lived in four of the five boroughs over my 16 years there, so I’m not just talking Manhattan — let’s fight fair and point out some annoyances of urban living that I really don’t miss.

  • Lack of living space:  Do me a favor.  Take your hand and open it up as far as you can.  That was about the size of my bathroom in my last apartment.  For a family of four.  And did I mention I pathologically hate clutter?  It was a battle I could not win. 
  • Circling for parking:  You could pretty much bet cash that, any Sunday night when we returned from a weekend trip with the kids, the dog and all of our stuff, it would be raining, sleeting or snowing.  So this insane dance would ensue of double parking while unloading our kids and our stuff curbside while someone ensured the car wasn’t ticketed. 
  • Being accosted by crazies:  Don’t get me wrong.  There are plenty of nutters in suburbia — but they keep more to themselves.  The New York crazies really get up in your face.  It’s been awhile since an amateur preacher screamed in my face about the end of days or my sinning ways.  Or a one-armed ukulele player spit at my feet for not giving him my half-eaten soup.  I don’t miss that so much.  If I want crazy, I know plenty of people I can call.
  • Planning for higher education of a child in utero:  Pre-school lotteries and interviews — with college-sized tuition bills to match.  No thanks.  If I told you what I paid in day care costs for two children in the city…I can’t even think about it.  In fact, I had to tell the day care place that I was pregnant with my second child before most of my relatives knew — so that she could have a spot in a year.  For day care.  Not Harvard.  Not even private kindergarten.  Day care.  Anyway, I felt like I won the lottery when I was reminded that my property taxes in the suburbs cover the cost of a very good public school system.  Now I can keep up my Starbucks habit.
  • Escaped Egyptian Cobras from The Bronx Zoo:  OK, so it was just this once.  But, still — it gave me the creeps.  Who can live in fear like that?

In full disclosure, I’m still in Manhattan every day for work, so I probably haven’t had a proper chance to really mourn the death of my city life yet.  But I do get wistful about it now and then.  Central Park.  The West Village.  Delicious food at all hours.  The energy and the diversity.

And then I think about that tiny, tiny bathroom.  The windows that didn’t really close all the way.  That occasional but nasty rat running out in front of you on the street.  The navigation of the double stroller through the endless winter.  The day care tuition bill. 

So I guess what I figured out, after this year of change, is that my heart belongs to both the city and to suburbia.  But a girl can have more than one great love, right?

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  1. Congrats on the big move ..and its success! Being a surburban gal now I love love love 99% of it all (since I grew up in rural nj..yes it exists) and colleged in nyc. It is a nice compromise. And u could always move closer to starbucks so you can walk. (I don’t want to make you feel bad but mine is only 2 blocks walk away…).

    And I saw that netflix documentary about preschools in nyc and I wanted to throw up! Seriously …its preschool…not college. Crazy!!!

    • fordeville says:

      Two blocks to Starbucks, you say? This is the Suburban Holy Grail. Well done.
      Actually, I also grew up in the sticks of NJ (kind of “Blair Witch Project” rural) — so I know it exists. Even if nobody else believes us 🙂

  2. I haven’t fallen in love with suburban life as much as you have, and I don’t expect to at this point—it’s been 18 years. However, I do live a couple of blocks from what they call “town,” which always cracks me up. So, I can get cooked food, coffee, flowers, a bong (yes, they opened a head shop), interesting groceries (though not a regular kind of supermarket shopping), meat, Italian pork store delicacies, stamps, borrowed books, Irish imports, fish (cooked and raw), doll house supplies, pet supplies, five and dime treasures, drunk, and my taxes and nails done. Jeez, I’m starting to feel better about suburbia already. Now that I’m looking at that list, it’s not so bad.

  3. Alexandra says:

    So, so right.

    No perfect place.

    I love the quiet and space of suburbia…but the people here?

    I’d like to throw them all in Lake Michigan.

  4. You will be blesses because I found 27,000 4-leaf clovers on the left and right border of the text.

  5. anna says:

    i’m with you on the love hate with suburbia. we take an annual “vacation” to nyc every summer which i highly recommend (perfect for a vacation avoider). my huz still works but enjoys a week w/out the commute and i do all the fun stuff w the kids i never did when we actually lived there b/c i was too busy filling out pre-school applications and sanitizing the apartment against roaches.

  6. Jessica says:

    You need a drive-thru Starbucks so you don’t have to find parking and get out of the car.

  7. I usually go on and on about living in Boston. The culture at my fingertips, walking to the RedSox games, street fairs and museums.

    If I had a million (plus about 4 million more) dollars, I’d pack the family and more all 6 of us back there.

    However, I like my backyard. I like my sprawling basement playroom. Unlike our condo in Boston, I don’t need to open the oven door to open the a kitchen drawer. Hey, unlike our Boston condo, I actually cook in this kitchen. I don’t have loiterers, public urinaters, and crazy people (that is, crazy people not related to me) right outside my font door.

    We are planning another 20 years in suburbia. Then we move back to Boston into a small two-bedroom place. “What’s that kids? You’re bringing the grandbabies to visit us in Beantown? You can have the condo, we’ll be at the W. Ta-ta!”

  8. I couldn’t imagine living in the city…or working there actually…a pop in now and then for a visit suits me just fine. Everything has it’s good and bad…and they shift over the course of your life. Looks like you’ve got the right balance for your family at this time!

    ps. Paying to park for Starbucks? You musn’t be suburban enough yet!

    • fordeville says:

      My town is heinous about parking. Almost all of the lots have metered spaces, with parking cops that circle like sharks. I’ll pay the quarter to park instead of the $50 for the parking ticket — because a $53.50 latte just seems a tad excessive 🙂

  9. Erica says:

    Lol LOVE your city & suburban contrasts!!!! SO true!! I have a similar addiction to Starbucks’ rival, Dunkin Donuts! ; ) That would freak me out, too…neighbors bringing trays of cookies and stuff to welcome you to the neighborhood. I know it’s nice of them and all but I don’t know; I’ve lived in the suburbs my whole life and nobody on my street ever did that…..eeks!! =\

    • fordeville says:

      Thanks Erica!
      Yeah, the trays of cookies are very thoughtful but they still freak me out. Now, a Welcome Flask — that would be nice 🙂

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