Saturday, May 19, 2007

Community

There are plenty of things that bug me about our neighborhood: It's 99.9% white. We live around the corner from a country club and all the necessary pesticides to keep the space "green." There are way too many Ugg Boots and North Face jackets and designer jeans with long names I can't pronounce that cost $200. (I often get this overwhelming urge to pull out my circa 1984 Guess Jeans with the zippers at the ankles just to show that at one point I, too, cared about name-brand fashion trends!)

In my ideal neighborhood, I'd prefer a bit more diversity - both economically and racially. Especially since the local elementary school's demographics are 66% low income and very racially diverse. We're like this little enclave of white, upper/middle class families nestled in the middle of the real world.

But there are a lot of really great things about our neighborhood too. People look out for each other here. Last week, husband D. was in Asia and we had neighbors coming out of the woodwork to help me. They'd make us dinner...take the kids for an hour...call to check on us.

I love living near the lake. I love that we have 7 great parks in walking distance. I love that we can get most of life's necessities from neighborhood stores without getting in a car. (yes, mostly, I do get in the car...but I *sometimes* walk or bike...and we're trying to do more of that as the kids get older.)

I love that there are a ton of kids. And kids roam free in our neighborhood. From what I've read, that doesn't happen much in many parts of the country any more. Last night, we had an impromptu neighborhood dinner at the park. The kids played in the sand at the beach. The adults sipped wine in plastic cups. Someone biked around the corner to pick up a pizza. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a Hallmark commercial. It really is like that, sometimes.

Ironically, one of the biggest perceived strikes against our neighborhood is the local public school. Evidently, people who choose to live in a neighborhood like this don't want to send their kid to a public school filled with poverty. Well over half the neighborhood goes to private schools.

For me, the public school has been hands-down, the best thing about living in our neighborhood. It's my reminder that life isn't always a Hallmark commercial. I do still believe that life is richer when we have the opportunity to create a community with many different types of people.

2 comments:

LisaS said...

IHYS! We also live in a great neighborhood ... but an urban neighborhood, with little restaurants and shops and such only a couple of blocks away. But there aren't many kids on our end (we live in a high rise), so ours play by themselves or with a 3-year-old neighbor ...

One of the ironic effects of the desegregation suits of the 1960's and 70's is that the more integrated neighborhoods like ours lost their schools. The two closet elementaries are magnets, but still too far to walk. Half the neighborhood is assigned to one school, over a mile away to the north, and the other half to another school, over a mile away. Add to that a strong tradition of Catholic/private education .... I can literally count the number of neighborhood kids who attend a public school on one hand, and it's all magnet, and not the ones nearby.

My family has spent a lot of time trying to convince me to move to the suburbs, to school districts that are 15% non-white and mostly 6-figure incomes like ours. But that's one of the strengths of living here, I think: that my children see how half of the other 85% live, and understand how very lucky they are.

K said...

I think I would love your neighborhood!

One of these days, we will fix public education....one of these days....