I grew up in a small, rural community. It's funny, when I think of all the freedom that little town provided to me as a child. I could walk to Susan's house. I could bike to Nancy's house. I could bound on over to Lisa's house on a moment's notice... Even my friends who lived in the next town were accessible if I arranged to ride home with them on the school bus...
Sometimes I think about how different things are now from the way they were when I was a little girl. Part of that difference comes from our changing times, but some of it is simply location. Because my kids are growing up in a more urban community, they have access to things I only dreamed about. Our kids can go to a different movie every day of the week. They can go bowling just about any time of the day. They can spend the day at the lake, or at the zoo, the water park, the mall, or at the Children's Museum... And yet, they may actually be missing out on a few things.
My children are growing up without knowing what it's like to spend the day roaming through the neighborhood, playing with whomever is available. They can't walk to the swimming pool on a hot summer day. They won't have memories of riding their bikes to the store to buy penny candy. And none of that is because they're too lazy or too restricted by my rules... Mostly, it's just because of where we have chosen to raise them.
You would think that having the ability to access so many different things would imply close proximity to those things. That's where you'd be wrong. In a small town, everything is close--it's just that everything doesn't include very much of anything... In our city, we can find anything we might want or need... The question is:
How far do you have to go to get it?
The Princess dances at a studio that is over twenty miles away from our home. Our doctor is twelve miles away in the opposite direction. The grocery store is nearly seven miles away, down a mountain, and not accessible by sidewalk. The local high school is over seven miles away, down the other side of a mountain, across a highway... Let's face it, we don't live near anything.
For years, we have been importing friends. Having a friend to play with isn't always as easy as walking three houses away and knocking on the door. It takes a phone call, a drive to pick up the friend, and sometimes it takes a consultation with the weather man... We've been known to have friends spend the night due to road conditions which were just too treacherous at the end of the play date.
This might leave the impression that I dislike our life or our current location. Actually, I love seeing the sun rise over the mountains in the morning (I just wish it didn't happen so darn early!). I enjoy watching the deer wander through my back yard. I smile when I hear the coyote pups howling in the evening. I ponder the hawks outside my window as they glide along the air currents for hours each afternoon. I smile as the setting sun glints off the surface of the lake. And I hope my children find pleasure in these things, too.
But even I will admit to the inconvenience. Maybe living here, away from the hustle of the city, is my way of creating a small slice of (artificial) rural life at the core of our hectic, urban existence... And while I don't like all the miles that tick away on my odometer every day, I much prefer that to the crowded neighborhoods of the city center, or to the isolation of a rural home. I feel like we have it all here... The best of each... A quiet sanctuary in the suburbia of an exciting, modern city.