This is in response to a tough to read post by urbanite Toby Weiss of St. Louis, where she laments the trials and tribulations of living in a slowly recovering urban St. Louis neighborhood, and begins to see the greener grass of the suburbs. You can read her elegant post here: http://www.beltstl.com/2013/08/south-st-louis-breakdown/
As a family who has recently relocated from Lindenwood Park, a pleasant, slightly suburbanesque part of St. Louis city to a McMansiontastic, banal suburb of Cleveland called Avon Lake (mostly for the 2 minute commute to a new job), I'd like to share some of my recent understanding from this somewhat nicer, somewhat not, suburban life...
It's quiet here. In an unbelievable way - we rarely hear a neighbor talking, almost never see the neighbors (I've met the next door neighbors twice, and the other side never) - pretty much everyone pulls into their garage, shuts the door, and disappears into solitude.
I miss the welcome and friendly hellos of our next door neighbors, the folks across the street, and the monthly walks to Ted Drewes with half the block. We won't get that here.
I miss shoveling the sidewalks both ways from my house - helping out all the neighbors, especially the single teacher who lived next door and had to be at work super early to help some really challenged kids in the city.
I miss walking, well, anywhere. Our neighborhood is quaint and pleasant - we've got a neighborhood HOA pool, which becomes our only walking destination. There's no Ted Drewes, no Pint Size to say hi to Christy and crew, and no doctor's office at the end of the block. We get in the car to drive miles to get anything. I could walk, but there's no sidewalks out of the neighborhood, and people driving don't care about me, the stroller, or anything other than getting there, fast.
There's a niceish park nearby, but it's awfully quiet. Though St. Louis city supposedly has no kids, Lindenwood Park was always filled to the gills with people and their kids - people like Dylan from Civil Life, who we'd see there with his son all the time.
I'll miss the hundreds of unique restaurants within spitting distance. Now, we get in the car and drive 20 miles to Cleveland to grab a bite at a gastropub, or check out someplace cool. The kids have a bigger yard, but we spend more time in the car than we ever did before. Tradeoffs.
Lindenwood Park is pretty lily white. No disputing that. My new neighborhood makes it look like the United Nations. It's amazing how white everyone, and everything, really is. Everywhere you look. I'd hate to be anything other than the WASPiest of WASPs around here.
I worry about my kids. All this driving - well - it's a lot riskier than anything that we did in St. Louis. Crime? Hah. Not really a concern no matter where we lived. Jerks speeding down the street in their SUV while on their cell phone? A true worry. Our old 25 mph street with parking on both sides was WAY slower than this wide, modern street.
This isn't to say the suburbs are all bad. I love not spending every waking minute working on my 75 year old house to keep the water out and it intact. I love having large, modern spaces throughout the house that work for my family. Heck, I love having drywall. The pool is nice to take my son to, and I don't deal with any of the urban problems - no gunshots, no crazy people, or anything else. We have a huge house for not much more than our St. Louis house. Our private spaces are infinitely better than our old private spaces, but our public spaces suffer mightily.
However, I'd give it all up in a heartbeat for that old home and our old neighborhood. After this experience, we've both realized that we want the public amenities, and all the love that comes with them, over our own personal castle - however nice and quiet it may be.