Why Would Anyone Move to the Suburbs?

35357278That’s what I said Saturday night when I was with a friend in Davis Square, watching Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band (left) playing HONK! Fest. I went to HONK! for the first time last year and was captivated not only by the eclectic collection of musicians that take residence in Somerville for the weekend but by the spirit of irreverence and celebration they bring to the city. Stiltwalkers mingle down Elm Street with college kids and hipsters. Bowler hats and band uniforms rival Sox caps and North Face fleeces. They take up residence on sidewalks and in plazas by day, crash on our couches by night. Walking around in Davis Square Saturday night was like wandering into a delicious blend of Carnevale and high school band practice. A flamboyantly geeky and political music explosion.

Sunday afternoon, my husband and I met up with a friend to take in the parade. (You can see my photos and videos here.) On the way, I mentioned my observation from the previous night. “Why would anyone move to the suburbs?” I had said to my friend. “You can’t get this in Natick.” While both Rick and I are hoping to raise our kids in a city like Somerville that is so unique, artistic, and dynamic, he came to the defense of suburban life — different strokes for different folks, after all. There’s nothing wrong with the suburbs — they have plenty of advantages. But we also talked about how maybe for some people — like his mom — the suburbs may present a refuge from things that are just “too weird.” (Admittedly, my standards of weirdness are probably much different than the average person’s. After all, I spent the better part of high school hanging out with supernerds, role players and the other weirdos that Dragon World cultivated.)

I know some people move to the suburbs because they want to be able to afford a nice home with a yard, or they want a quieter, safer place to raise a kid. But honestly? I don’t mind raising my kid with a little ruckus, in a smaller house, if it means being exposed to events like HONK!, What The Fluff?, Artbeat and Somerville’s many other offbeat cultural offerings. Not that there aren’t cool events and experiences in the suburbs, but I think I particularly value the weirdness of what Somerville offers. I also like the idea of raising my kid(s) with a healthy appreciation for the odd and off-kilter. A little street sense can’t hurt either.

The other day, The Spotted Duck posted about a last fling with her neighborhood of Coolidge Corner, which it seems she is moving away from in the near future.

Coolidge Corner is one of the most fun, lively neighborhoods in the Boston area, and it’s only as I’m leaving that I find myself really appreciating it…. But for us, it’s time to grow up and move on. Time to buy. Time to exchange location for space. Delicious space. Wonderful space. Still. I’m going to miss it.

I guess that as we get older, we all make calculations and trade-offs. Our priorities shift. Practical concerns may necessitate a change. So, for me? Space is great, but location and experience mean so much more. And I don’t want to become one of those people who gets all worked up about “coming into town.” Am I being naive? Idealistic? Maybe. But I also don’t want to settle for something less than satisfactory. This isn’t just my life I’m talking about.

If we can (and of course, the markets may conspire against us), we’d love to be able to stay in Somerville or somewhere nearby, start a family and raise a little weirdo or two. Maybe, Rick and I joked, one of them will march in some installment of HONK! 15 or so years down the road, hula-hooping while playing the trumpet and waving proudly to us as we stand along the route — just down the street from our house.

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One response to “Why Would Anyone Move to the Suburbs?

  1. Shelley Greenberg

    I totally hear what you’re saying and know we’re going to miss the liveliness and convenience of living in/near the city. Moving to the ‘burbs was something we struggled with too. (Something about it feels boring and out of touch and – yikes – old.)

    But for us, the time seemed right to buy and there’s no way we could afford to live in our current neighborhood as owners. Even pushing our budget to the max would put us in a teeny tiny place and we’ve been living like that for awhile now and that gets old too.

    We’re so excited to have (zomg) THREE bedrooms and (hyperventilating) TWO bathrooms and walk-in effing closets. And a deck and, holy god, a yard and a garage too. But in looking at towns we definitely tried to steer toward the younger, more lively places. Beverly has a great town center, an old theater, lots of restaurants, etc.

    I probably got a little sappy in my post but for every ounce of sadness at leaving Brookline I’ve got ten more of excitement for Beverly. (And the closets. Did I mention the closets?)

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