This is a shot of the town where I grew up, a little hamlet called Holland, in Massachusetts, as seen through the windshield the other day. We moved there when I was 8, and I hated it. It was in the woods–I couldn’t see my friends–and Jem wouldn’t come in for me to watch in the afternoon. Over time it grew on me enough to tolerate it, and as soon as I could, I moved away. I moved to South Hadley, another rural area for college but one that was at least just a few miles away from bustling Northampton. Then I moved to Boston. I loved it there. Lots to do, always someplace to go, even if the weather was bad. You could walk to things. It made me happy.
But even over time there the city began to feel rather stressful to me. We lived near a lot of trees and parks and had a nice yard, all of which helped, but it still felt rather close. Then we moved to Connecticut, to a small, fairly dense suburb. We have less space here in many ways than we did in Boston; our neighbors are right on top of us. Partly this is because we live in a three-decker in the densest part of town, but even many of the single-family home neighborhoods are quite thick with houses. And we seem to have landed in a particular place–a sort of vortex of annoyance, on some days. Now I’m telling you this after the THIRD night of waking up at an early hour (ie, 2 am) because the guy upstairs came home then and doesn’t take off his shoes. Old houses=creaky floors, on top of his stomping. And the next-door neighbors are a special kind of…special…who let their teenagers hang out shouting on the porch until 3 or 4 in the morning on occasion. It’s special. There’s also a traffic light (we live on a corner) which, when it’s red, seems to be besieged by people whose radios are cranked so loudly you can hear the metal of their cars shake. This is especially awesome when it’s warm and our windows–and theirs–are open.
It might not surprise you, then, that despite our proximity to a movie theater and the biggest Whole Foods I’ve ever seen (just over a mile away, in walking distance), I find my thoughts turn to my old hometown.
I don’t want to live there in particular, mind you. It’s just that the idea of quiet, of space–we could put in a stellar garden if we lived in a rural area–and perhaps even of neighborliness sounds really appealing. Maybe I don’t need a slew of restaurants a half mile away; maybe I only need one grocery store, and maybe I can get the hang of doing all my errands in one trip. Maybe what I really need is to hear myself think and sleep through the night, to putter in the yard and plant my own vegetables. Cities surely have their perks, but I, for one, don’t seem to want them so much anymore.