When it’s just too hard to do the easy thing…

Last weekend we took a scouting trip to Savannah, a 72-hour blitz to find a house, a school, a Y, a community. Savannah is not unlike San Diego in the way it’s squished several distinct lifestyles into one small geographic area. Three of them called to us: downtown, with historic old homes and moss hanging from the trees; the islands, just beyond modern with houses of 1970s era, sandy and laid back; and  a suburban town of manicured lawns, walking paths, and gigantic new houses.

The suburb was first. And if the real estate agent had pitched a house to us in the first half-hour of our tour, we would have bought it, I swear.

Those massive houses are beautiful. HUGE. Allan could carpool with any number of colleagues. There will never be a Target or a Red Lobster or a casino here. The town grew up around Henry Ford’s winter home. EVERYONE goes to the Christmas parade, the 4th of July fireworks, the farmers’ market on Saturdays. Every neighborhood has a pool and you can’t walk five blocks without encountering a playground.

It took my breath away. It was so sweet. Comfy. Easy. It’s truly a lovely town, filled with happy people and sad people and ambitious people and creative people. I would guess, too, that everyone here likes kids. It’s fresh and new — no one lives here because they grew up here. People choose to live here purposefully.

Many will tell you they came here for the schools. The public school system has incredible test scores and plenty of money. Everyone goes to public school. As I’ve said before, the choice of public over private school is a social distinction, not an academic one. At a private school, kids have something in common, something that (usually) doesn’t predominate at a public school. It could be race, religion, philosophy, a pedagogical belief, whatever, but in some important way, the kids are alike.  In a town where the distinctions between people are more about how you like your coffee or than about your cultural heritage, there’s no need for private schools.

I think we’d fit in okay here. We are traditional enough that I make the grocery lists and Allan mows the grass. Allan goes to work every day; I focus on our daughter’s daily care. For at least this moment, my family has chosen to live the life that this community offers. If I could just keep my political views to myself, we could be accepted. We could be in.

Yet … something propelled us away, away from these nice people and this easy living. Something strong. I don’t have any idea what that was.

Why make something more difficult than it absolutely has to be?

We simply couldn’t see ourselves living there. We felt a tinge of discomfort that wears away at the sense of easy-ness. I don’t quite know how to admit that without sounding disparaging, and I don’t mean to at all. (Maybe this is the real estate equivalent of, ‘It’s not you; it’s me.’ Blech.)

The best I can come up with is the question: what if everyone lived where everyone looked alike and did the same things? If Allan’s day looked like all of the other guys’ days and Anna disappeared into a crowd of lookalike peers? Would it be interesting? Is that best for us, for our family?

In a day and time when we are so peripatetic, when we have opportunities to choose the communities we join, how do we define those choices?

This feels like more than simply selecting a school system, a commute, the size of a house. It feels like it’s about more: insides and outsides, looking alike and feeling alike, sharing experiences, the comfort in sameness and the beauty in difference … it’s about the questions we ask ourselves. It’s about our ideas about the world, who and what informs them, and how they inform us in return.

Moving across the country to an entirely new town offers something so rare, the chance to give conscious shape to how we live, and this feels like it’s an important part of that. It’s important to us to make those decisions and to own them fully.

To know that it’s not only about the words but about the significance those words hold when we say: “I choose to live here, and I choose it because ….. “

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Published in: on July 23, 2011 at 9:58 AM  Leave a Comment  
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