Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Rep yo City! or at least city living....

First - I have been blogging my butt off.. there are seveal new entries in the last 72 hours and possibly a few more. I'm just warning you guys... Now I was at the blog - which I read and enjoy regularly. Today she was talking about choosing to raise her kids in the city- I understood but it made me think...this was my response.

I was born a suburb kid. I didn’t know the first thing about city living but know now I was always a city girl on the inside and now I am a city mom.
I first noticed this about myself reading a blog today about this mom who felt she had abandoned her city roots for the betterment of her son, he called her a nature girl – and she balked until she took a look at herself. I am aware I am a city girl by the response of my best suburb friends TiTo (that is two people - people) We have constant arguments on which is better city living or suburb living – they dwell in her family home in St. Charles County MO. It takes me 40 minutes to get to her house- needless to say we don’t visit as much as we’d like.
“You step out side and hit an alley at the end of your 3 feet of yard” she pointed out.
“It only takes me two minutes to mow it, and I’m five minutes from every where – you drive 20 minutes to get gas”
“I don’t!”
“Do too, at least I don’t have to send passenger pigeons to tell my friends hi”
“At least I can get a cell phone signal in my house”
"Your cookie cutter just like the rest of the block house- that you had to put a boulder in the yard to make it different?"
We concede a draw cause she’s right my house gets no signal, and she does live twenty minutes from civilization.
How did I end up so far form my suburb roots? Was it falling in love with a city man? I don’t want to give him too much credit, as I wanted the city long before I met him. I longed for college in a big city town like Chi, or Atlanta, as a matter of fact I wanted to go to Spellman so bad I could taste it – I never even applied – too scared of rejection, ended up at the most non big city school near me, the University of Missouri (MIZZOU). It is probably one of my bigger regrets and secrets. When I ws a kid I would tag along with my city smart cousins and take the bus into downtown and mall walk. Yearly trips with my mom to the At museum and Zoo, and major trips with my middle school to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago made me love city ambiance. But I always chose safely when choosing college and my first few apartments, the county was where my family was, buying “better” houses on faux wooded lots where gorgeous oaks were cut down to build snap together houses and little trees were replanted to make everything look natural.
How was I to unleash my inner city dweller?
I fell in love with poetry in 1999, and found myself hanging most regularly in poetry spots speckled around St. Louis city. Tuesdays were in the Central West End, Monday nights on the Delmar Loop, Wednesday’s night was Troy’s near Lafayette Park, Sunday was Love Jones at the Bistro near the Fox theatre and my still spot Legacy on Friday. Then there were all those little spots I would stop in on – The once upon a star café in the CWE, Venice Café, Churchill’s, Cicero’s anywhere they put a mic and invited a poet. They all invited me, fed me. The people, the cultures, the smells, the food, everything was different than it was in the ‘burbs. NOTHING was cookie cut out and it was okay that I wasn’t either. So in falling in love with the poetry – it made me fall in love with the city, it made me fall in love with myself. I found the theatre, The Black Rep, the bookstores, the buses. I thrived on having access to different people. I loved the rhythm of the streets and the anonymity because St. Louis City was coming out of a coma at this time, and if I had been smart I would have bought property then but I was young and hind sight is 20/20.
I envy my husbands time in New York, the ultimate city. New York is the City’s CITY. What I wouldn’t give for a year to soak in the subways and the theaters and Central Park and China town and Harlem, you have no idea what I wouldn’t give to live a year there. But even in all of my city girl glory, I know there is a limit to what my wants for me and my wants for my girl are. While I am still a city mom- yes I plan on joining a gym for the baby, yes, we have a dog park in our neighborhood, yes my block has more nationalities on it than a food court in a airport, we are glad of this and we are happy. My immediate neighbors are Hispanic and Black we got white people across the street – gay people catty corner – college kids in the apartments on the top of the block – professional people, working class people – everybody. I worry that my heart will harden – but I make sure I speak to the people on our street when I see them and I plan on joining the neighborhood group.
Its not the pretty suburbs with the .25 acre yards and room for playgroup equipment for Cammy, but its not the ghetto from Good times either. We can go to the Botanical Gardens which are literally a stone’s throw from our front door, go to Tower Grove which is six blocks away, take the seven minute drive to Forest Park or drive to a playground and hang out when we need a jungle gym. Besides we do good as the city family. And whileI admit I did look at houses in the burbs when we were house hunting – now just isn’t the time, it will come, I’m sure when the absolute quite will be what we want for our family but for now I can still smell the roses through the city sounds and smells. City life is as simple for me as suburb living. It is as slow in our brownstone as it is in my sisters suburban ranch home. Life is what you make it where ever you happen to make it. Though I worry am I raising my daughter at a disadvantage? Sure we go to museums and see all the new exhibits and she certainly wouldn’t ever be able to claim her parents didn’t expose her to other cultures, she’s one and has already eaten Thai, Vegetarian/Vegan, Chinese, Greek, Persian, Authentic Mexican, Pan Asian, Japanese, Korean, Ethiopian, Caribbean, Creole, and French. And we know and count friends people from at least 2/3’s of these backgrounds. So we got the cultural gap and the diversity gap covered. But what if this is all too much? What if she needs the quiet, spacious childhood city living cannot offer? Yes the sights and sounds of the city will be second nature but what about butterflies in her own backyard.
The lady who’s blog sparked this interest, this thought process – at least for it to be blogged she believes my city child will be hipper and wiser than her county child. That her child will suffer from an achievement gap and mine will learn faster, rise quicker in college, work and life. She thinks my kid (city kids) will be the one . They'll probably be the ones hiring or firing him in about 15 years. She worries the differences will stack against her son. I worry that my child will see her son’s and his easy laid back world and she will wonder why I didn’t give her that.
That mom said:.

I hope that their exposure to all walks and talks of life has done more than
render them street smart, cynical and sophisticated. I hope that it enables them
to postpone snobbery and the prejudgments that most of us immediately form.
I chose this life for my child exactly for this reason. So she would see so many walks of life and know she is not better because of what she is but perhaps because of who she is. And if all of these things we are giving her will make her sophisticated and street smart all the better for her, we just want her to be happy, and have every opportunity we had and the few our parents couldn’t provide, cause honestly from my memories there weren’t many. If she is a snob, I hope it is because she has excelled at everything we have challenged her with and I hope she is the kind of girl next door/round the way kinda girl who brings people with her – not shuts them out.
Because the truth is, my daughter is a city kid. She is pleasantly overwhelmed at new things and never overstimulated, at least not yet, and loves to play at home as well as a good adventure like last weekends circus.
And I am a city parent. Even if we could afford to live in the suburbs my husband would find acceptable, I'd have a hard time giving my daughter the kind of diversity I know helped me blossom and I don’t believe city living will leave her any harder around the edges when she enters adulthood, just maybe smarter about the possibilities good and bad the world will offer her
So, we live in a medium size city, biggest one in our state, not far from a major tourist trap. We keep memberships to the Gardens and other societies. We walk to the park. We go to the classic ice cream shop after church in North City, where the candy counter, shoot the whole place looks like it was lifted out of the 1950’s sans the white only signs, and my husband can remember going with his father, over his BTL and my Carmel pecan sundae. We drive to Barnes and Nobel and Borders for reading hours and quiet time cause we always forget to return library books (which is funny since the library is closer) – besides we like to own them. .
So I know suburbs are okay – but with everything a city can offer I just wouldn't want to live there.


Blogger Pariah said...

So, umm, do you get much done while you are at work? :P

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Tito said...

Spoken like a true city mom/sister/wife/friend/poet/pain in my ass. I love what you wrote. It was elequent and very insightful. I was almost misty at your honest accounts of "city" living, however I do feel that I must touch on just a few points as I know you were hoping that I would. One of the things that I love about you is your objectivity. You are a classic like shell tops and now and later candy. You touched on the funny moments of our conversation and expanded. You didn't insult my hood but you definitely repped the hell out of yours. Let me do the same just real quick. I live in a suburb that never wanted my people here in the first place. That's one of the main reasons that I stay. I'm SUPPOSED to be here. My parents were born during the Jim Crow laws in rural Mississippi in the 20's and 30's. They left the crooked letter and came to St. Louis in the 50's. Believe it or not, my parents lived on Belt, Blackstone, and Hamilton Terrace throughout their years in St. Louis with 9 children in tow. In 73' my father was given the insight via his boss at the time to buy property in St. Charles. He did and purchased it for around 26 grand. I was child number 10 and 8 months old at the time. My mom and dad are gone now and I am here to honor them with staying at my homestead. I live here and carry a badge of honor and pride that is unmatched by any other feeling about 'where I'm from". Just look what my parents did....They had nothing and came from nothing. I was still raised on collard greens and hot water cornbread. I received a great education from a 4A school. Pop fireworks on the 4th in the front of the house without the fear of getting a ticket from the po po (it's legal in STC). My brothers and sisters dropped their kids off at our house so they could get "the good candy" during Halloween! The easter eggs hunts were always held at the house cause' we had the space to hide over 100 or so eggs. My dad poured an extension for our driveway so that when family came over, we could fit up to 5 cars on the driveway instead of two. No parking on the street. We always went to the city on the weekends to visit the rest of my family because they just couldn't see coming "way up there". My mother used to always say as we were heading down the highway..."hell, they can keep that city" Oh to only know what was behind those words then. What I wouldn't give to know now. For what it's worth, I do see and understand what Raquita Dolling is
boasting about... but....aint nothin' like my hood dawg. Oh and just so you know....I got an acre lot on my shit! LOVE YOU.....TiTo

5:54 PM  
Blogger CousinSarah said...

Man, I agree with both of you. I personally could not live in the long term outside quick reach of a city. I need the life, the culture, the diversity and the energy. I am a city girl at heart. (Well actually, I am an ocean girl at heart but that is something else. :) )

However, my grandparents and many of my aunts/uncles live in a more rural area of Illinios, and there are so many memories I can remember and recently got to begin to provide my son. The space to run, to see nature, to have space.

It is hard because there are so many important values that are find in both and in each independantly. I love the city, but I seriously need the country every now and then to regroup. There is a solice swinging on a tree swing and listening to the sound of the wind and the crickets that just brings a particular calm that is hard to find in the city. The city has a heartbeat that if you just listen, the pulse is invigorating. There are surely a need for each in my life.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous mr. tambora said...

If things are not 24 hours and unique, In my opinion, it sucks. I have been around and seen some things and have yet to feel comfortable in a cookie cutter world. Life is raw and gritty outside your cul de sac and outside of the U.S. borders. I think you have it right Q. If you were to burb it up you would have to work twice as hard to dispell Cammy's ignorance on ppl, places, things and Ideas that are not located in her toybox. Multi-cultures gives you more room to become what you will. Kinda worked for me.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Copa said...

im a city kid living the suburbian life. i love the noise of the city but also enjoy the peacefulness of the suburbs. i love the high ceilings of city houses but enjoy the big backyards of the suburbs. the pulse of South Grand, bohemian feel of the loop, the beauty of the CWE, being able to take the bus ANYWHERE...i can leave or take the riverfront,lol....but i need the quietness of the burbs and being 15 minutes from the job. yet i miss and long for the city.

8:07 AM  

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