I grow up in a small town. Although I never lived there again once I graduated from college, I was always nostalgic about that life; the big yards, the ease of getting from one place to another (walk, bike or a short bus ride}, the city-wide celebrations on holidays, the joy of knowing so many people when you walked down the street, and the safety children enjoyed as they roamed the city streets. The people in our town were probably 95% white and 90% Christian and it was very unusual to see an African-American face.
But once I learned what a larger city had to offer (theater, educational opportunities, shopping, etc.), I was torn. I liked the benefits but loved the small town atmosphere. So when my husband, also from a small town, and I looked around for a city to live, work and raise our children in, we tried to mingle these contrasting benefits.
Originally, we settled in Carlsbad, California which was a small but growing community, an easy drive to the larger city of San Diego and little farther drive to Los Angeles. Perfect. We had found a good mix. Seventeen years later when my husband made a career change, we moved to Rochester, New York which was a medium sized city with all the green yards and parks you needed in addition to theater and education.
So it was a bit hard for us to accept that our only grandchild (GD) was born and is being raised in a borough of New York City. Even our middle daughter (MD) fretted. A product of our love of smaller towns, she longed for a smaller city to raise her daughter. But our son-in-law's (SL) work was in New York and that's what counts.
About a year ago, the family moved out of an apartment and into an adorable row house. This means the house – and most of the houses on the street – are attached to each other on both sides. I love the house; it has four rooms upstairs for living and sleeping and a finished basement with two more rooms, a second kitchen and lots of storage. It also has a back yard! This, to me, appeared an impossible luxury in New York. Needless to say, I felt much better about this family's life in the big city.
This year, we visited our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter over Halloween weekend and I got yet another look at this community. In the morning, we attended a lower grades assembly. The children, all dressed for Halloween, shown off their costumes, one grade at a time. (GD and at least ten other little girls were dressed as Elsa in the movie Frozen) I loved what I saw and it was much more than the costumes. There were brown faces, black faces, white faces and every color in between. There were African-American students, Indian students, Japanese students, Chinese students, Caucasian students and probably many nationalities I did not recognize. No one color, nationalism or culture dominated. I loved it.
Early evening, we set out with our little Elsa for the shopping area which is the trick or treat haven in this community. The streets were filled with both little and big goblins. Stores were being mobbed by all sorts of creatures with their bags open, looking for trips, not tricks. Already, some stores had "Out of Candy" signs on their doors. But there were enough still in business that GD could fill her bag.
As we walked from place to place, I must have heard adults and children speaking at least ten different languages. And, once again, I observed this wonderful mixture of races and cultures. The best part was that nobody (except me) appeared to notice.
Forget the small town idea, forget the romantic notice of knowing everyone. This, right here in a New York borough, was a wonderful way to grow up. In an environment like this, it would be hard to hate or defame any religion. It would be even tougher to hate the "other" or be aware of differences in skin color, language or religion, because everyone is different. I think my daughter and son-in-law got it right and I only wish the whole world would take notice.