I’ve always considered myself a city girl. For a few years, my family lived in a big farmhouse in a country-like setting. In winter, we struggled against the high snowdrifts and field mice that found their way inside. Summers were glaring, punctuated by the buzzing sounds of insects that inhabited the huge, open and overgrown fields. With my parents continually working, I felt trapped in the vast hours of solitary play. Then, the developers took over and we moved back to the city.
City life was snapping and bristling with human activity. We lived on the West Side, populated with large families, sirens, popcorn men and corner delicatessens – all set to the background music of cultural institutions. It was painted with everything from graffiti to Van Gogh. I loved it.
Summers were spent playing games from our imagination and swimming at the Massachusetts pool, where 25 cents would buy lunch, a can of Blue Boy pop and penny candy from Ganci’s. When not swimming, we played Relivo, a form of hide and seek. Our teams acted with military precision in coordinating the game plan. The entire block served as the boundaries. We hid on roofs and under bushes, climbed fences and “cut” yards. The game lasted all day.
Colder months were spent exploring museums and libraries, and attending concerts in Kleinhans Music Hall. We shopped on Elmwood and Grant streets. Woolworth’s counter was long and inviting and Kresge’s, with its wooden floor, had bins and bins of magical goods.
With grandchildren came the decision to move to our final home in a semi-rural setting, alien to our city lives. But surprisingly, we enjoy it. Our neighbors are just close enough, friendly and helpful. Our sleep is quiet and restful; not dreaming against a background of sirens, car sound systems or noisy neighbors. We do not wake to a cacophony of dogs barking or car horns tooting. The steady hum of the interstate does not continually serve as a backdrop. Though frankly, I don’t believe that ever really bothered us.
At first, the pitch black dark of night was disconcerting outside the windows. The silence is both freaky and wonderful. Outside, it’s a pleasure to actually hear the breeze and venture into a quiet expanse full of natural delights and sounds.
We’ve gotten used to the farms, small markets, ice cream stands, local diners and solitary corner car repair shop. We’ve embraced the fact that the larger stores and doctor’s offices are an easy 20 to 45 minutes away. Summer concerts and activities are just five minutes away. Culture does exist here and it’s plentiful. I still work part time in the city. It’s a straight 45-minute, two-stoplight drive along the river. It’s lovely.
I still get my fill of human interaction, sights and sounds from my beloved city life. But now I go home to a serene, quiet setting, farmers’ markets and roadside stands, uninterrupted book reading, beautiful unblocked sunsets, a few field mice and the grateful knowledge that no matter where we live, there truly is no place like home.