Change and its Discontents

Pedestals, Idylls, and other Dangers of Modern Life.

Mel at In Favor of Thinking has "development" occurring in her urban neighborhood. As I noted last year, yuppification and rampant change are not confined to the city, so I have some sense of her feelings at this moment.

When my parents built the house in the woods that my mother still lives in, I am sure we were looked upon as interlopers, cutting down trees in a five-acre woodlot to accommodate the little Cape. Gradually, in the manner of New England towns (that is to say, glacially), our family became part of village life. I was too small to know that there was much else - I didn't pine for sidewalks or corner shops, though I did wish sometimes that our road and driveway were not dirt, as it would have been fun to roller-skate or play tennis against the garage doors. My parents had a vegetable garden, I went to the local elementary school, and we attended the town events: Strawberry Festival, the Fourth of July parade, horse shows sponsored by the 4-H. Looked at from a distance of many years, it sounds faintly idyllic, but it was really just daily life in a little town. I don't know if we had many illusions about small-town life, but if we did I am sure they were swiftly depressed by the realities of Hollis.

Idyll-making is as dangerous an enterprise as pedestal-placing. Expectations of a utopian ideal, be it urban or rural, are bound to be disappointing. I hear that some of the newer people who have moved to my little hometown for its small village charm have found that the charms of a small village have their offsetting elements. The politics are sisyphean. Old houses are - well, old, and they have old-house issues. And those picturesque horses? They poop.

Yes, it seems that some newbies called the town and objected to the passage of horseback riders on town roads who did not then come back and clean up after their beastie when he left his steaming calling card. In a similar fashion, I am sure some of Mel's new neighbors will be charming people who are easy to live with. Others will over-imagine their idyll in the city. When they come face-to-face with reality, they will object to the noise, the shopping carts left in the street, the litter that is every city's swirling calling card.

And, like the horrified newer residents of my hometown, they will just have to get over it.

Posted: Thursday - March 17, 2005 at 07:01 AM         | |