Oh, the places we’ll go

Once upon a time, I was certain of many things.  I knew that cheerleaders were vapid and soulless.  I knew that I did not need money to be happy.  I knew that meat was murder, Republicans were evil, and religion was the opiate of the masses.  I knew that I wanted to live in a funky urban area with a diverse population plus access to the opera and jazz clubs.

Tonight, I know much less than I did when I was young and unencumbered.  Having children throws my values into deep relief.  As we try to narrow down possible places to live in New Jersey, we stumble up against our beliefs.  I mean, sure, I still value intellectual pursuits and diverse populations.  But I also want good schools.  Now, of course, the measure of schools is completely subjective.  For some people, quality schools may be about learning to value folks of all hues while for others it is all about class size or test scores.

What I know is that we want to live among good people.  And what the fuck does that mean, exactly?  It means that we prefer not to reside in the state penitentiary, I guess, although I suspect there are lots of good folks there, too.

So, we want a town with good schools and good people.  Fantastic.  That clears everything right up.

“You may not want a small town,” a friend warned.  “People can be awfully provincial.”  You know what?  Most of the people we know in big cities are provincial, too.  A spit-shine doesn’t do much to hide the fact that snobbery is the flip side of hickness.

What we have learned with all this moving is that there are no simple answers about people or places.  There are smart cheerleaders who read Kafka, and even the ones who don’t have plenty to offer.  Money is not the root of all evil.  There are people who believe in God who are deeply thoughtful and reflective and intelligent and have just come to a different conclusion than I have.  People are people.  There are lots of trappings, but ultimately, everyone is pretty much ghettoized by life.  And they all have something to offer.

Where am I going with this ramble?  Well, the movers are probably coming next week, and we don’t know where we want to rent in New Jersey.  Do we want the interesting town close to New York with the diverse population and the larger class sizes?  Or do we want the small, almost rural town farther out that gives us plenty of space to garden but only has white people in it?  And if we pick the diverse town just for its diversity, are we in essence using the people of color for their ethnicity?  We just don’t know.

So, we’ll close our eyes and leap and if we don’t like where we land, we’ll make a change at the end of the school year when it comes time to buy a home.  If experience serves as a guide, we will find interesting, good people no matter where we go.  The people will be narrow in some way or another no matter where we go.  We will regret the loss of something no matter where we go.

Now excuse me while I go hyperventilate about the movers who are coming next week.

18 responses to “Oh, the places we’ll go

  1. Wow, movers next week, holy cow! I didn’t realize it would be that fast.

    I totally sympathize with this dilemma. What I can tell you is that I have been pleasantly surprised by our relative rural-dom. Yes, it is off-set by the college town and all that comes with that. But in reality, this is a pretty rural area, with all that comes with it (couches on porches, burned out trailer homes). However, with age, I think I’ve come to see that these are people like many others. They want their children to be safe, to have a few friends, food on the table. I thought culture and intellect were so important to us. But now that our biggest boy is learning to navigate real social life, I’m glad he is in an area that values the basics. (but we will still run off to the city now and then).

    Hoping you find the right niche. Be sure the movers don’t box up all the lovey giraffes!

  2. If I had a dollar for every one of my friends who suggested that child-rearing is the path to social enlightenment and intellectual maturity….You, at least, had the sensitivity to leave the assertion implicit. I’ve often heard it stated more directly: “If you had children, you’d understand why we have to invade Iraq, but…” (True quotation, btw.)

    Anyway, these are definitely weighty questions. I haven’t had the freedom to make extremely deliberate choices about where I should live–ever, I guess. It’s a money thing–I owe a lot, and so I kind of have to live wherever I can afford to live while still paying all these debtors every month. But it’s easy to identify with the many complicated factors that go into choosing a home and a neighborhood (and neighbors, of course), especially when you know that the place where your children grow up will have a great impact on how they conceptualize the broader world.

  3. It sounds like whatever your choice, it will be a new and interesting experience. And as you say, you can always make a different choice after that.

  4. I agree with your observations about people in rural areas vs. city areas. Hicks and snobs all come out equally. Best of luck.

  5. It’s a lot to consider, and not all of it is under your control. As you know well from your wacky neighbor experience, some times you luck out, some times you luck…um, in? If the kids will be in public school, and money isn’t a consideration, then I’d find something in the best district possible. However, if you want diversity you’ll be hard-pressed to find it in school in the best districts. Diversity can be found in other ways, too, if it’s a priority for you: a multi-ethnic synagogue, a multicultural play group.
    Best of luck in the (speedy) search!

  6. Hmmm, I live in the suburbs, with mostly white people. I would like to live in the city, but where I want to live in the city…is guess again, mostly white people. My kids do go to the local public school where they have a color box of children. (granted, it’s mostly white and Asian) We live in this suburbs because of the school district, not for diversity. Education is the more important at this stage of the game. I am impressed that my kids (through this school) have been exposed to all religions and histories of different people.

  7. Tried to add this earlier: move to the one near NYC.

  8. Agh, how crazy-making. The thing I always think of when I’m wondering where I would live if I had the choice, is that you can never have everything. Good neighbours are really really important, and there’s no way to know if you have those except by living someplace for a while. So I think your instincts are good.

  9. Yikes, you’re moving fast. Good luck.

    Once you’re here, let me know. I could help you unpack a box on a weekend…

  10. WHAAAaaaa? I go away for a week, and come back to find out you’re moving? Holy cow.

    Well, you’ll be missed. 😦 And I hope you find the perfect place for you and your family.

    Um. You’ll still be blogging, though, right? Pleeeeease?

  11. What a blessing to have such a choice! And you are right, where ever you go, there are good people. And good people attract other good people, so I know you will find them. Good luck!

  12. Yipes. I can’t believe you have to make this decision so quickly. Best of luck wherever you end up. I hope the transition is as smooth as possible for all of you but I am thinking esp. of the two boys & their school set-ups….

  13. Next week? Fuck, girl!

  14. Kevin,
    I think it is unwise to ever assume there is one path to enlightenment. Moreover, the past five years has taught me that enlightenment is a continual process, rather than a destination. I continue to learn through many things, but having children is one of the biggest influences on my way of approaching life. Having kids may not change my views, but it very often challenges them.

  15. Oh, wow – good luck with everything!

  16. I love where I live, but I frequently imagine moving elsewhere. There are so many different places I’d like to live. And not all of them are the ones you would probably expect.

  17. Just thinking of you and wishing you luck.

  18. such a great perspective on this