The ‘Burbs — by Laura Houston
On Saturday my husband and I took the train up the Hudson River to visit a few of the suburbs of Westchester County. We have been discussing our next move, and we needed to collect more information before wasting any more time looking at houses on the Internet and researching schools.
I am ready to get out of the city. Dying to. I love gardens, dogs, yards full of green grass, and big, open, blue skies. I spend a lot of my down time trolling real estate sites for our next home, and I am ready to make some decisions.
Or so I thought as we rode the train for 1.5 hours north to visit a few of the hamlets and villages recently named as the best places to live in Westchester County.
Good thing we did, because I was stung once by reality and twice by remembrance.
I grew up in the suburbs. I hated it. I resented the materialism, the boredom, the monotony, the homogeny, and I couldn’t wait to escape, so I don’t know why I thought this would change for me at an adult. As a parent, I understand the lure of the ‘burbs. Good schools. Safety. Open places to play. Recreation. Shopping. Convenience. I get it. These are good things to want for your children. Maybe.
But when we stepped off the train in Sleepy Hollow, I remembered all of the reasons I hated the lifestyle as a teenager. As we strolled the serene sidewalks, we watched one lonely 16-year old drive up and down the blocks in his spray painted Honda Sol, listening to music as loud as he could. Looking for someone or something to do. The only other person we saw was a woman getting into her Lexus SUV and backing out of her drive.
We looked at houses, we walked to the park, and we tried to walk downtown, but the streets were not at all walking friendly. We came out of one subdivision only to be cut off by a highway. No sidewalks. No shoulder to walk on. The only way to downtown was via a car. We turned around and walked back to the train station.
Next we went to Irvington. Irvington was voted the best place to live in Westchester County due to its schools, safety, parks, and proximity to New York City. (It would be an hour and 10 minute commute for my husband.) Most of the houses in Irvington have property taxes upwards of $20,000 a year. For that amount of money, I expected the downtown to be thriving, bustling, clean, and restored.
It was OK. The hamlet’s main street had a nice view of the Hudson. But most of the restaurants were closed. The shops were small and full of overpriced gourmet food and spices. The sidewalks were narrow and unwelcoming, and several of the homes along main street sat empty and in need of repair. We wanted to have a glass of wine, and we had one choice unless we wanted to wait until after 5pm. We shrugged and went into the restaurant. The service was crappy; the food subpar.
“Where are all of the people?” I asked the waiter.
“They all go into the city for fun on the weekends,” he said.
Of course! All of the families go into the city where we just were. To have fun!
I kept thinking about what was best for my boys. The fresh air. The parks. Great schools. Safety. Irvington had it all. It is a cute town. Really cute.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” I said to my husband.
And to my surprise it was me who was running back to the city. We skipped Dobbs Ferry and Hastings and fled back to Manhattan. Once back at Grand Central, we climbed out of the terminal and headed to Bryant Park, which was full of all kinds of families lounging about on the grass, to rethink things.
We have to make a decision for our family. I am torn by what is best for me and what is best for my husband and sons. If we move to the suburbs, Dave will lose more than two hours of time per day with his children. Every morning he’ll board a train at 7am, and he won’t come strolling back through our door until 7:30pm that night.
This breaks my heart. They adore their father. He adores them. Their time together is endearing.
I can’t believe I am saying this, but I don’t want to move. Not right now. I can forego the big lawn and the dogs and the garden for a few more years. Because whereas those things make me happy, they come at too high of a price for my sons and my husband.
Maybe I’ll start knitting or making crafts. Maybe I will finish those damn novels I started. Maybe I’ll start collecting something, as long as its small because so is our apartment. But I don’t think I am going to spend any more time dreaming of a house in the suburbs. The losses hit a too close to home.