Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In defense of the 'burbs

I can't believe I just wrote that title because I often feel unsettled out here in the 'burbs but after reading this article on Grist, I'm inspired to explain my suburban life....and let you all know it's not Zombie Cookie-Cutter Land, out here.

Yes, I'm an urban girl at heart. I lived & worked in Chicago for 10 years of my adult life and thought I'd never leave. But then, Mr. Right came along and escorted me out to Oak Park which I grew to love....urban-ish and only a quick drive or train ride into the city. Alas, however, Mr. Right's commute to Naperville was too much and we made the very difficult yet conscious decision to uproot our family and head west.

Have I found my time here numbed by shopping malls and shiny happy people? Do I feel our family has joined a cult of one-mindedness, droning around the suburbs in our minivans? Absolutely not. I came out here, a bit hesitant, but determined to find "my people." I searched for women and families who have their babies at home, grow their own food, strive for sustainability, go out of their way to support independent businesses, respect diversity and live fulfilling lives. And guess what? They're here! Suburbanites have large gardens. They're small business owners. They buy cooperatively to save resources & money. They're thoughtful parents. They ride their bikes to work. They frequent local farmer's markets. They're independent thinking, conscientious beings who strive to live purposeful lives. Duh.

There is a shopping mall but in my 5 years here I've probably been inside the doors 6 times. And we have big box stores but don't let any city dweller convince you they don't. In this era, we all have to look carefully for independently owned businesses because they're sadly scarce. The public transportation system consists of a Pace bus running to & from the train station which isn't helpful to my family but worthy, nonetheless. And no, I can't walk to a corner store which I often miss but then I think, what would I buy there anyway? I'm quite sure I wouldn't find the unprocessed foods that I feed my family or a roll of recycled toilet paper....but maybe some tape, every now & again. One mile from my suburban dwelling is a family owned business founded in 1875 that consists of a pharmacy, post office and general store. Yes, we support them often. And 3 miles down the road is a huge organic farm. We participated in their CSA for a few years before expanding our own garden. It's not a wasteland, out here, trust me.

Do I feel stranded? Not at all. I am very blessed to have a life that warrants me choice and this suburban life is what we opted for so that Daddio can ride his bike to work, coach & still be home in time to see the kids before bed. We've developed meaningful relationships, found our little unique niche and learned what it means to create a home rather than let a locale create you.

I often dream of living somewhere else, as the polls say 50% of us do, but that's because I'm human, apparently. My dreams range from selling the minivan, buying a CTA pass & finding a nice condo on the northside to moving further west, buying some chickens & working my way towards homesteading. The reality, however, is that I choose to be right here....and it's not as bad as the media makes it out to be.

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