I grew up on Long Island, in the suburbs of New York City. As far back as I can remember, I always felt sympathy for kids that had to grow up on the "mean streets" of the city. Now that I'm living here in NYC and hoping to raise my family here, I'm spending a lot of time looking back on where my suburban superiority complex came from (which I've now lost, obviously or else I'd be in the 'burbs now). I think it's because of the news I used to watch as a kid.
My "local" news as a child was NYC news on the major broadcast networks. We didn't have cable, so I didn't watch Long Island's News 12 to get a sense of "hometown" news. Most of the stories I watched with my family each evening revolved around shootings in Crown Heights, gang violence, NYPD crackdowns, Mayoral debates on homelessness, etc, etc. The City did not seem like a great place to visit, let alone LIVE!
Interspersed with the bad news stories were human interest pieces. Summertime reminds me of images of city kids I saw on the news: Children running through fire hydrant geysers, images of crowded public pools, children playing in massive sprinklers in concrete parks.
In my mind, my suburban summertime was better than that.
I had a public pool that I went to everyday. And it was crowded. But it wasn't on the news so it must be better, cleaner and safer. I used to run through the sprinklers...in my yard. Splashing in fire hydrant water? GROSS! Those poor kids in the city were missing out.
Looking back, I can now logically assume that my childhood suburban superiority came from my inability to separate good news from bad news on TV. I didn't really understand the concept of human interest news, I suppose. The news was a place for bad news.
Sure, not every part of the city was safe, especially in the 80s and 90s, but it didn't mean that my life and lifestyle with my house and yard on LI was better or more normal. I see that now.
And when I take my daughter to the sprinklers in our neighborhood park, I see how much she loves life here. Is it better than life in the suburbs? No. I can see the appeal of having a house and a yard and a car. But that's not what I want right now.
Savannah playing in the concrete sprinkler jungle at John Jay Park. She looks pretty happy.