Before I had kids I wanted to live “in the city.” Downtown. Broadway. Where the action is, preferably in a much bigger city – we looked at several big American cities as possibilities.
Cities with history, with culture, with a “scene.”
Places with richness and depth and restaurants you tell stories about back home. With all sorts of different people. With action, activity, intricacies, lifeblood. With subways and harbours and Major League teams and preferably without 40 below winters.
Places where you can walk rather than drive to get your groceries and buy them not from VAST ALMIGHTY SUPERSTORE but from a baker, a fruit stand, a butcher, a farmer and a fishmonger, and then take them back to your tiny studio walk-up and prepare a cosmopolitan meal while Ella and Miles and Cole wrestle deliciously for authority over your playlist.
And then enjoy that cosmopolitan meal with an overpriced but mind-blowing bottle of cabernet franc on your tiny balcony overlooking the street, where the taxis are honking and people are hurrying, staring past one another, the café owner is hosing down the sidewalk and the delivery truck is double-parked and inciting angst while the driver rushes a package into the clothing boutique next door.
And then to walk down in the morning for a fresh-roasted cup of coffee that is hot and wonderful and “Large” rather than “Venti” and a bagel so fresh it’s still steaming and then to walk back up to that tiny studio, saying “good morning” to Theo from 4B, to return, enjoy breakfast while poring over a proper big-city newspaper, debating over whether boutique hotels should allow children and deciding on what Broadway play to see that night.
And then, at some point . . . maybe when I was asleep or at least not paying attention . . . we moved . . . to THE SUBURBS.
It was hard.
I missed living nearer to the heart of the city. I lamented giving up that (unattainable) urban dream I had been clinging to.
But then, bit by bit, my dream changed.
I started dreaming about playgrounds. Swings. Underdogs and twisters. Enough space in the yard for the kids to run around with a dog who doesn’t know if he’s chasing or being chased but is excited as hell either way.
A good school within walking distance. Friends down the street. Walking home for lunch and cartoons. A big kitchen that always seems to be in use and a warm fireplace to curl up around to read books on a Sunday in January when it’s forty below and snowing outside.
A stop on the way home from work for milk and peanut butter and chicken, home to cook a decidedly suburban meal while discussing the big trials and little victories of the day, the baby’s upcoming shots, the bills that we can pay this month and those that need to be put off until next month.
Simmering marinara on the stove while children giggle and scream and yell and occasionally drown out Barney on the TV and ‘classic’ Sloan playing on the stereo. Trying unsuccessfully to have a full conversation without being interrupted before a silly dance pop song comes on and a spontaneous kitchen dance party erupts. Enjoying dinner over giggles, reprimands, a few sharp words and a few encouraging ones, spilled water and a drinkable shiraz that was on sale last week.
Walking down to the corner, half-dressed on a Saturday at 7am to get the mail and saying “good morning” to Peter from that bungalow on the corner that needs new shingles before mowing the lawn and grabbing a stale bagel on the way out the door to tee-ball. Bandaging scrapes and heading home for an afternoon movie and iced tea on the deck.
This is now our reality, far from that young, urbane dream of a decade ago.
And I think it’s okay.
It’s okay because both dreams are the same. They’re about sharing music and laughter and food and drink and pain and anger and stress and strife with people you love. They’re about carving out your very own place, protected in some way from the big, scary world, and doing the happiest things there that you can manage.
Both dreams are the same.
They’re about finding a place, whether it’s in the city with the taxis or out East with the minivans, whether you rent it or own it, whether it’s big or small or new or old – they’re about finding a place and building the best damned play fort you can.