When I drive around the Chicago suburbs near my home, I often chuckle at the names of housing developments and streets. Many of them try to give off an aura of opulence or class with names such as Wessex, Stratford, or Chambord. Some neighborhoods are gated and have guards at the entrance. Yet these towns are usually safe, serene, and despite their names, devoid of much pretension.
City slickers may sneer, but there are so many things that make the suburbs the ideal place to live.
- Parking – Wherever I go, there is generally a huge lot in which to leave my car, usually by pulling into a diagonal spot or my favorite, the “pull through.” This makes shopping for groceries, medicine, clothes, and whatever else my family needs so much simpler. My children’s dentist is in the city, and believe me, the experience is much more fraught as I try to squeeze into a parallel parking spot or jockey for one of the tandem spots behind the building. And if it snows? Well, the nightmare intensifies.
- Quiet – When I visit my daughter in New York City, it’s hard to fall asleep what with all the sirens and the incessant honking of taxicabs. Here in the ‘burbs, the night sounds consist of a few crickets chirping or the distant rumble of a freight train.
- Safety – The suburbs are not completely free of crime, of course, particularly of the property type. But I feel pretty safe going about my business and allowing my kids to walk or bike to the park, town, or a friend’s house. In a small suburb such as mine, you tend to recognize most everybody, so it’s easy to be on the alert in you notice a stranger.
- Shopping – We have these glorious places called “malls” where all your shopping is in one convenient place. And, of course, you’ve got those diagonal parking spots everywhere.
- Dining – It may be true that cities have a greater concentration of gourmet restaurants, but securing a reservation, finding a parking spot, and sometimes dealing with the snootiness all make going out to eat a bit of a hassle. Not so in the suburbs, where there are plenty of serviceable and even excellent dining spots with friendly, unpretentious services and no need for valet parking charges.
- Atmosphere – I do love the hum and buzz of a big city, and when I need my fix, I take the train downtown and walk the busy streets. But most of the time, I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in suburbia. While there are times of frenzy and traffic (primarily at school drop off and pickup times), mostly I can take my time, enjoy a quiet stroll, browse in the library, or catch a quiet breeze in my own backyard.
Suburbia often gets slammed for being small-minded and provincial. It can sometimes feel dull and commonplace. But living and raising my kids here has made me appreciate the suburban lifestyle. And it’s a beautiful one.