Finding Joy and Experiencing Hope in the Traditions and Continuity of Suburban Living
“I think an artist like Norman Rockwell would have done just fine here, inspiration-wise.”
I am writing this a day after the wonderful Presidential inauguration. When we moved out of the City years ago there was a “red” administration in Washington followed by a “blue” one and so on and so forth as the years flew by. With the hellacious year of 2020 now behind us, politics aside, as a nation we are all looking forward to meaningful change and progress.
I’ve written here frequently about the cul-de-sac where we live. It doesn’t look or feel particularly different from year to year. Sure, we now have a sidewalk encouraging pedestrian activity, but otherwise there’s a reassuring steadiness to life here which helps folks carry on in such a fraught time while we await and long for better days.
When we moved into our yellow house we had no idea that life in the cul-de-sac would end up being a self-replicating slice of Americana. A lot of this bucolic suburban existence, at first glance, might appear mundane.
However, within the semi-chaotic day-to-day lives most families with small children experience, a comforting repetition feels essential and sometimes beautiful. In other words, I think an artist like Norman Rockwell would have done just fine here, inspiration-wise.
Upon moving here, I was immediately struck by a simple act by our new next door neighbors. A knock on the door and a warm loaf of fresh-baked homemade bread was hand delivered as a means of introduction and welcome. Laurie and I were taken with this simple but lovely gesture and, for a minute, it calmed the turmoil of leaving apartment living in the city and starting over with our two still very young children. Even better, our new next door neighbors became dear friends.
When those same next door neighbors moved to another state a few years ago it felt like the end of an era. Sometimes proximity is a fine ingredient for relationships. The warm feelings would carry on but, no doubt, things would be different.
Upon reflection, these neighbors leaving cul-de-sac were just one domino in the chain. In fact, in the last several years literally every house next to ours or in close proximity has seen new families move in. It feels astounding to note that without even realizing it, almost in a blink of an eye, we went from the new kids on the block to the seasoned neighbors who are newer counterparts to turn to for guidance.
With all families now enduring pandemic living, life in the cul-de-sac is far more remote than in previous years. It is nice to see people on walks even even with their face masks. You can tell they are still smiling with a wave and a hello. In this environment, it’s still the connection we need.
Embracing the Constants
Significantly comforting too are the ‘constants’, the steady reliable features of suburban living. The bus stop right in front of our house initially served as an introduction to the neighborhood. Kids meeting kids and us meeting other parents and caretakers. That daily interaction was not only socially meaningful but threw us into neighborhood circulation in an organic, no looking back manner.
Now, with our children years past using the bus stop, there are new families with their kids waiting for the bus. That annual continuity, along with remembering the feeling of being part of it, is a sweet confirmation that however life may evolve, there are certain foundational pieces one can always rely upon.
Within the first few weeks of moving here there was a block party in the cul-de-sac. At that moment, for me, it felt like a mildly hokey social obligation and facing it as a new family just felt difficult. My sometimes panicky neuroticism aside, more thoughtful voices endured, and we went. It turned out to be a very enjoyable and bonding time–a fine tradition.
We had similar neighborhood parties over the years, but not since most of the new families have landed here. As we approach almost a full year of pandemic living, I’m looking forward to the old normal, like a block party that right now, is just impossible. Odd to be looking towards an event that will manage to be a tradition and a change simultaneously. Hopefully before long.