When I was in the sixth form (age 16) I told my class I wasn't going to live in a normal suburban house. I wanted to live with space around me, to live somewhere different, to be different perhaps. The teacher thought that sounded exciting, and encouraged me to hold on tightly to the dream.
And I have. In fact I've long held a bit of a horror of suburbia (despite growing up quite happily in it). I struggle with matchy-matchy houses all in a row, everyone washing their cars on a Saturday and going about their different but same lives. I think the problem for me is that it represents the treadmill of life. For a long time I have dreamed of a different way of living which Kent neatly summed as "a christian hippie commune." Well, yes, I suppose so. I have also spent my entire childhood (on paper) and adulthood (in my head) designing dream homes. Somewhere along the line I ditched the room with wall to wall cushions for playing on, but otherwise the designs have improved. There have been a lot of dreams to let go.
But for now, and most likely forever, I have let go. I do remember it occuring to me, when in the depths of my dislike of suburbia, that it is what goes on inside the home that matters. It was just a little inkling that I had, but I did my best to ignore it. But we know of course that is true. I can be as different as anyone who lives anywhere by the way I choose to live, even with all the restrictions there are around my choices. I can live in my house in its long line of matching houses and choose to be a hippie, or a christian, or both, or dress like a princess in a castle if I must. And more importantly I can create a home that is warm and loving, secure and welcoming, I can fill it with creativity and knowledge and laughter. It doesn't matter what the neighbours are doing.
But actually, I like neighbours too. I don't have a lifestyle block with the huge garden I dreamed of, with room for a goldfish pond and a tennis court (or whatever I dreamed) and the feeling of privacy. We were surrounded by elderly neighbours in our last home, and we adored them and they adored us. It turns out a chat with them over the fence is better than gazing in to the distant meadow. And now we are surrounded by young families which is also wonderful; Reuben is getting curious about the kids next door and has started climbing our apple tree to peek over the fence, and today we met one neighbour we have not met before. He and his wife are absolutely lovely and I wouldn't swap lovely people for a tennis court any day. How far I have come.
Where I have come to is a large, rather independent suburb on the edge of town. I do believe it is the uncoolest suburb in the entire city. I don't know what it is about it, it just has always had a bad rap in the coolness stakes. I grew up with that impression of it. But now I rather like that the people feel so unpretentious and down to earth. I like the mix of rich and poor, the great primary schools and best co-ed college in the city. I like the free parking, and the fast drive in to town when you want it, and the ease with which you can get out of town. I like my large, affordable home with a lovely garden. I like the playgrounds and the trees and the great sun and the stream that runs through the centre. I have to admit that I ignored all that when we first arrived here, and begged Kent to make sure we didn't stay. But here we are. And I think it's going to work out.
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