My, oh my how time changes things. About 10 years ago, when I was still in my roaring 20s, and long before that, I used to be totally indifferent about suburban towns. I couldn’t understand what was so attractive about them. Sure, the houses were big, beautiful and richly furnished, but why choose the prettiness of places like Cranford, Westfield or Ridgewood, when one could have all of life’s conveniences at their disposal while living in a major or second-tier metropolitan area? Not to mention all the fun people in their 20s can scare up in a big city! I have always loved city life, and I probably always will. But after an errand out to Mamaroneck in Westchester County last week, I put a few more points in the pro-suburb column.
We drove out to Mamaroneck to look at a station wagon. Hubby’s friend was selling the car because he and his family are moving out of the country for a few years. We need a bigger car, because between Baby’s car seat and my little sister, we’ve sort of outgrown my trusty Corolla. This car is older, but has been gently used and meticulously maintained, so we saw this as a quick solution to our problem. (We eventually did buy the car, and I’m pretty happy with it. Little Sister, too. You should see her strutting over to the car in her wedges and sunglasses, popping her gum and reclining on its plush leather seats. Too much.) Anyway, Hubby’s friend directed us to the highways and major county roads to test drive it. As we made our way through historic and upscale towns like Rye and Larchmont, respectively, it was a revelation. Not once did I hear any sirens, spousal arguments or gunshots. No neighborhood drunks ambled their way past our house, no snoops watched my front door (although I’m sure these cosmopolitan suburbs have their share of uppity nuisance neighbors) and I didn’t see one prostitute. I felt like I had just gotten over a headache.
I asked myself several questions. Is this how other educated professionals live? Why aren’t we doing this? We could live in a town where the quality of the schools, hospitals and other public services are not always in question. I’m sure people in Westchester County have to deal with their share of nonsense, but coming from a community that the rest of the world sees as dysfunctional, I felt like it couldn’t be all bad. I happened to marry a left-leaning guy who has no use for places like Larchmont and Rye. He calls these places “crusty”, knowing that I’ll get annoyed and chide him, “Just say upper crust! G-d!” Then I realized the property taxes on these pretty little, well-kept farm houses probably equal my annual net salary. Yes, my company is that cheap, and life in New York is that pricey. When I was growing up in Paterson, Mommy would always listen to news radio in the morning. During the traffic report, the announcer usually gave an update on roads passing through ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and other places that sounded weird to me. It sounded surreal. How could any place in the world, which I assumed to be as ethnically diverse and restless as inner cities, ever be so tame and sleep inducing?
For a few moments, I wondered what it would be like to raise Baby in a place like that. But the thought of paying nearly the equivalent of the U.S. median income in property taxes quickly brought me back to my senses. It could never happen. Hubby and I would have to have the sort of intense, demanding jobs that would drive him to chain smoke and push me to knock a few back several times a week, just to unwind. We probably wouldn’t be very nice people to be around on a typical day. And then what sort of parents would we be to this precious little girl? Newark definitely makes me want to roll my eyes and cover my face in shame on occasion. But at least we are able to make a reasonable life here. We can take time out to read interesting books (the excellent book in this shot, near Hubby’s foot is titled: ‘Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?’) I can blog and share my insights with you gentle readers. I spend so much of my free time with Baby that Hubby remarked today: “Sometimes I think you two are siamese twins.” I haven’t exactly completed the assimilation process—ditching the inner city for suburban life in any one of America’s upscale towns. Still ‘dealing’ with the inner city. We are OK, though, me the child of Jamaican immigrants and Hubby, with his left-of-center, off-color remarks about “prissy”, sorry “pretty” places like Westchester County.