As you might be aware, M and I recently moved to the suburbs.
Not just Oak Park, or Evanston, or even Skokie. No. We moved to the SUBURBS. We’re way out now- just past the border into McHenry County.
That’s right, we’re in horse country. Away from all our friends and neighbors. Away from the constant protests and readings and podcasted conversations with David Axelrod I’ve come to know and love. For the first time in my life, I live in the SUBURBS. And oh, how suburban it is. The neighborhood is quiet and clean, the neighbors are friendly, there are kids running around without adults hovering over them all the time, scurrying from lawn to lawn to play games in each other’s back yards. There are kids the same age as my kids, making a ruckus in the park right behind our house, playing Pokemon Go in at the big playground around the corner. There’s an ice cream truck the kids already know better than any of the trucks that I used to refer to as the “Music Truck” in our old urban neighborhood, because the idea of getting my kids into their shoes, down three flights of stairs, and then still somehow catching the truck was more trouble than I could imagine.
No, the suburbs have a LOT to offer. But one thing they don’t have to offer is diversity.
As you probably guessed if you didn’t know, this is a big deal to me. I want my kids to live in an environment where they don’t experience tokenism. I don’t want them to have a token black kid in their school, I want them to interact with black kids. I don’t want them to be the token Jewish kids in their class. I want them to interact with Jewish kids. I don’t want them to have a single acquaintance with an immigrant parent. I want them to understand the variety and complexity of the American experience, the melting pot, lived out in their environment.
Hyde Park was PERFECT for that. With the University of Chicago literally up the street, they had constant access to events, people, and experiences that weren’t a cookie-cutter version of whatever happened to be popular at the moment. They had Muslim friends, Jewish friends, Catholic friends, brown and black and white friends, friends with parents from Israel and Sweden and Hong Kong and Lagos. Friends who spoke French and Spanish and Hebrew and Mandarin as well as English. It was great.
But living JUST SOUTH of Hyde Park, we were confronted with terrible public school options, expensive private school options, and all the additional problems that come for a family of five living in 1600 square feet on a third floor on the south side of Chicago. I faced a moral and existential question- “Do we BELONG in the suburbs?” My white, suburban bred, Christian husband said, “Absolutely we do.” And though I had my doubts, I decided to trust him.