I’ve lived in a few places, but all of them were what I’d call Suburban.
I grew up in a Wonder Years house, in the Wonder Years suburb of Cherry Hill, NJ, in a split level that backed up to a wooded area and some small wetlands, baseball diamonds, and places to explore.
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I moved off after college to an apartment building in a similar suburb, or rather a set of suburbs, and finally settled in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. Oh, yet another suburb.
All of those places were stable. There was a certain quiet way of life. Sure, the kids were out and about on bikes, skateboards, and rollerskates having fun and generally tearing up the place. This was the era that kids did that sort of thing, now it’s called Free Range Parenting and it is the exception and not the rule.
That’s a shame. Kids are expected to sit in front of a screen making icons move and play first person shooters. Turn the games off, it’s a more interesting world offline than it is online.
But there was a certain way about these places. Nothing too out of the ordinary, everyone seemed to have a role in life. I guess there also was a bit of a small town air about it where you knew your neighbors and they’d look out for you if you needed help.
Then I moved to Wilton Manors. Think of it as a resort town where the resort is for adults who want to sit indoors and play with their cell phones, just like anywhere else these days. Some of that is good, the rest of that is a bit odd.
Again, Odd can be good.
Down the block there’s a neighbor, Scott. He has a wife, Cindy, and their kids. When I moved in here I came to the realization that it isn’t quite what it seemed living two blocks off of Wilton Drive. I think I moved into Mayberry.
The kids were small back then. They would come walking past the house in a pack. Probably the only kids left on the block at that time, the families having raised their kids before and moved on out. Homes get bought in waves when they are built in waves, these homes were built in the 1950s and 1960s so those children raised in these homes are at least in their 40s and have their own kids.
But the reason why they were in a pack was because it was difficult to walk with a big green aluminium rowboat on your back. They’d go down to the nearest open water access with their fishing poles and buckets and go on the water for a proper day of fishing.
When their dad needed to find them for some reason, he’d come flying past the house. No, he didn’t run. He was on a skateboard and frankly he’s better at it than I am. His wife was good at it too.
I figured if they could use their skateboards, I could get back on my inline skates and be at home. I was. Nobody thought twice about it. In fact, I suggested that they use some of my old racing wheels on the boards for a smoother ride.
After a while they gave up the skateboards for an ATV. Quad bikes. They’d go up and down the block learning how to ride the things that gradually got bigger as they did. The kids were better at driving than most people on the roads here in South Florida, and Dad had just as much fun as they did on them.
I remember telling them that they had better toys than I did and I was jealous.
I stepped out onto the porch thinking about this. They were going off to the river today, early and on a rare week day. I didn’t see them as they were approaching, but that wasn’t why I was out.
It was irrigation day. Sprinklers were running and I needed to check the things.
On the porch, I looked through the gardens. There are a few plants there to make the property look less sterile, and they’re indifferently cared for. Some took, others withered away. I didn’t know why until I looked at the sprinkler heads there. One was turned off, the other was down to about 1/2 power.
In most suburban neighborhoods, someone would notice a sprinkler problem and Have A Guy Come By. That way you don’t have to get your hands dirty and surprise the neighbors. Always be wary of that, you don’t want to surprise the neighbors.
People my great-grandparents age would say “Stop that, you’ll scare the horses!”.
Nonsense. The sprinkler was turned off, and it needed to be turned on. Now. While there was still another half hour left on that zone. That was Zone 1 and it only runs 50 minutes twice a week.
I watched the timing and realized I could trot out past the golf sprinklers that watered the yard from two directions and get there relatively dry. I was right. I got to the distant one and turned it up full, then repeated the process on the nearer sprinkler head.
Looking down I realized that my foot was in standing water. Comes with the territory. Wet clothes and wet shoes.
I watched the timing and trotted back to the porch.
At that moment I heard the kids say “Hey, you made it!”.
I had a small audience. Instead of being concerned that I was being odd or Un-Suburban, I smiled and thanked them and went back to playing Sprinkler Guy.
“Good luck fishing!” I called back to the big green aluminium boat on the little cart that I grew to accept as part of the background here.
I heard “Thanks!” as I reached for the door knob.
Yep. I live in a town where nobody thinks its too strange if you’re running through the sprinklers talking to a rowboat on a cart just after sunrise. After all, the crotons in the garden like it too!