I’ve lived in both the city and the suburbs for 30 years, and trust me—I’m a city girl at heart. Where else except for a vibrant, thriving city can you find Drag Queen Story Hour or roving carolers with boom boxes? Plus, as a parent, there is something magical about raising a kid in a city. I’d rather that my kid has the words “bodega” and “train” in her vocabulary than, say, “drive-thru” or, “empty field.”
Although nothing lights up my heart like traffic signs and fluorescent lights glowing from empty office buildings after everyone’s left for the day, there are times when I’ve thought fondly back to my days of living in the ‘burbs and felt downright nostalgic. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve quickly shaken off those nostalgic feelings, steeled myself against an unforgiving, tough metropolis, and headed out into the nitty gritty streets that I love, kid in tow. But there is something to be said for the simple life, and these are the top three times I’ve considered settling down in the suburbs.
1. When a rat showed up under my kitchen sink
It looked like a crime scene; blood was splattering my paper towel rolls and Windex, guts had been flung onto the cabinet walls, like the rat trap snapping down on this guy’s neck was a crime of passion. Like this rat had done something bad to a family of rat traps, and the rat traps were out for revenge. Or, at least, that’s what my husband told me, because as the lady of the house, there are two things I don’t do: windows and cleaning up rat corpses.
It’s important to keep in mind that this was the cherry on top of the pile of Dead Rat Sundae that I had been dealing with, living in a house in the city for a year. Every time my landlord came by to check out the dead rat scene and figure out what we “could be doing better” in regard to pest control, she would say to me, with a twinkle in her eye, “You sure you’re cut out for city living?” She must have missed the part where we told her, upon moving in, that we had previously lived in Seattle and Los Angeles, and only heard that we had also, at one point, lived in the suburbs.
Look, I get it. I’m a tough girl. But the rats were in the attic and crawl spaces before they finally got in the house, and that was the last straw, as we had a two-year-old at the time. As a Jewish mother, it’s practically my job to lie in bed at night, picturing rats scuttling up the side of my baby’s crib and gazing down at her with their beady little eyes like she’s an adorable snack. The Incident of the Rat Under the Kitchen Sink almost had me handing in my notice and fleeing my gorgeous home to live in a pre-fab cookie-cutter two-story with carpet next-door to a woman who thinks mezuzah sounds “exotic.”
2. When I got my first power/heating/water bill
Here’s the thing: Owning a house in the city is wonderful. But actually paying to live in a house in the city blows. I love that my kid has her own (albeit small) background to run around in, our giant 22 lb cat following her every move. I hate that I have to pay grown-up prices for a dusty old pre-war house that is most likely haunted, and costs most definitely more than an artist’s paycheck.
I’ve gotten intimate with my local power company’s website; I know all of its ins and outs. I know how to make payment arrangements. I know the exact amount of time it takes for my payment to go through. I know the men who come by to fix outages by name. But I miss the days of *all-inclusive utilities,* when I didn’t have to think about turning off lights in a room I wasn’t using, unless I had just watched a documentary about global warming and felt like doing my part to save the planet. Do you know how much electricity/heat/water three people in a drafty old house go through? Too much. The first time I received any/either of those three bills, I was ready to call it quits, move to a farmhouse in an empty field, get water from the well, get my cheese from a goat, and start doing my makeup by lantern light. Who needs to keep a refrigerator running when you have fresh goat cheese, right in your own backyard?
3. Anytime I drive. Or look for parking.
Look, I’m not saying that I’m a better driver than 95% of anyone else on the roads right now, but I have been driving for 15 years and have only gotten one speeding ticket. Another time I was showcasing exemplary driving skills, I sitting rightfully in my lane, attempting to make a left turn onto the busy road outside of my apartment complex, when a woman lazily pulled out in front of me to make her own left turn, rolled down her window, and said into my open window: “Gee, thanks.” Like I was inconveniencing her by obeying the law.
It only gets worse as a parent, because now my toddler is a sponge and repeats everything I say. My road rage must be quelled. My language has gone from colorful to gray tones, and I tend to now shake my fist in the general direction of the poor driving perpetrator, and say, ‘Ohhhh, you!” as if I’m a mobster in one of those black-and-white movies from the '50s.
I grew up in a very small college town in Southeastern Georgia, where parking was plentiful, and it was a miracle to be able to get my hand-me-down 1991 Nissan Sentra up over 65 mph. Times were slower, for sure, and while slow-moving things/people generally do my head in now, I also wouldn’t mind not having to suppress my potty mouth every five minutes—because in the suburbs, who is there to be mad at when you’re driving (No, really, who? I don’t see anyone else on this abandoned two-lane road at 8 pm on a Thursday night)?
But I know I couldn’t go back. My kid deserves a better, faster, tougher, and more glamorous life than the one I grew up with, as a small town girl; she deserves the kind of life I always wanted, one filled with activities and events you can’t find anywhere else, and maybe even the occasional rat—just so she knows how to fight ‘em when she finds ‘em.
By Anna Jones, Time Out New York Kids Contributor