Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Day 25: Neighboring lives.

My neighborhood always struck me as a family-friendly kind of place.

Just a mile from downtown, but still touching a cornfield to the north, the quiet street was built after World War II on the edge of a town that in 1960 was home to 13,000.

Today, Normal has more than four times that many people and has stretched miles east of where I sit.

It could have been the home of my parents’ generation, or even mine, although not me because I grew up on the mean streets of Detroit, the only child of thoroughbred horse trainers, which are other subjects entirely.

Anyway, I’m thinking kids riding bikes, women borrowing cups of sugar, guys helping each other dig up a bush.

So today, over coffee and cookies at my neighbor’s house, Mary and Byron told me that’s exactly the kind of street Tilden Place was 40 years ago when they moved into a brand new house with their three children.

It’s funny how they never really thought about the things they did. They worked hard, raised their children and helped out. God knows I don’t want to return to the 1960s, but it seemed like necessity ironed out a lot of their lifestyle for them. Families made do with less, not because they chose to, but because they had no choice.

Later, in an effort to be more neighborly, I went over and talked to another neighbor this afternoon as she worked on her laundry line. This woman also stays home and has two young children.

Chatting over her fence (seriously), I told her about how my children, who were napping, woke up about 5. She talked about how she’s always running her oldest child, 4, to preschool but this is the last week until fall. Then, she gave up on her clothesline.

I went back inside to iron my husband’s shirts, wondering if I’m trying to return to something that’s long past or if I’m aiming for something new.

Either way, I think I’ll need a bike to get there.


At 10:32 AM, Blogger Librarian Mom said...

Nice post. I think a lot of people our generation aspire to these more idyllic aspects of generations past. Values such as knowing/helping your neighbors, rejecting materialism: these things fly in the face of modern day life.

As a fellow stay-at-home mom, I too try to cultivate these types of things in my life; I think we have more time to do so. But I plan on returning to work one day and I know my 1960's domestic goddess will probably be left by the wayside. For example, like your neighbor I too have started hanging laundry on the clothesline. It's funny because when we moved into our 1973-built house 7 months ago, I made fun of the clothesline hidden discretely in a back corner of the yard behind heavy landscaping. But now, after more reading about environmental issues and a heightened awareness, I see it as a small way to try to reduce my energy usage. But when I go back to work fulltime in another year or two, will I really have time to do things like hang laundry on a clothesline?

Therefore, to respond to your closing comments, I think women today are forging a new path: trying to incorporate as many good aspects of the past into the demands of modern life.

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