First Christmas in our new house. Left to Right: Kayavin, Jesse, Janaya, Isaac, Lacy, Peter, Kelsey
Before I continue this series, I have to clarify that my parents and siblings continue to live in the city, but no longer the inner-city. (I do live in the inner-city though, and am actually living with some roommates on the block directly behind our family's old house).
After about 10 years living in the inner-city my parents decided to move. To be honest they were a bit burnt out. They had been pouring out their time, energy, and hearts to the people in our neighborhood as well as raising 6 kids, (plus a sibling set of two that lived with us for years) and at one point my mom was even doing day care as well. Our house was a constant stream of people (which was a beautiful but also exhausting thing). She yearned for more space for us to run around and dreamed of having a big back yard for all of us. My parents needed a change in environment and some time to focus on taking care of themselves. I think it is easy for anyone who is passionate about what they are doing to spend so much time nurturing others that they forget to nurture themselves. I think a stronger support system would have been helpful, maybe an older couple who had "been-there-done-that" to mentor them through the complicity of urban living and remind them to set boundaries and not feel bad to spend more time taking care of themselves.
Nine years ago, I had no idea what my parents were going through and made no attempt to understand their reasons for moving. To be honest, I was ANGRY. We were all angry. We could not believe that our parents were even considering tearing us away from our beloved block, friends, favorite corner-stores, and lifestyle. Though the new house was still in the city, the name of the street was the same as that of a nearby suburb, and we were mortified to think that someone might hear our address and mistakenly think we were suburban kids. If you haven't gathered, city kids tend to demonize the suburbs a little bit. For us, instead of "The Devil Wears Prada" it was "The Devil Wears Abercrombie & Fitch". It is a very human tendency to turn something unfamiliar to you into a bad thing, so if you are from the suburbs please don't be offended! Kayavin (friend of Peter who lived with us for years) was absolutely terrified of the new neighborhood. He said the quietness was CREEPY and we all struggled at first to fall asleep without the lull of traffic, sirens, and voices that fill the nights in the inner-city.
Though at the time we were all convinced that our lives were ending, looking back I know my parents did what they could to preserve the lifestyle we were used to. We didn't switch schools. We didn't switch churches. We continued to participate in all of the same inner-city sports teams and summer programs we had always been involved in. We just had to commute a bit longer each day, and many of the things we loved were no longer in walking distance.
Those of us that were older at the time of the move, still insist that our old house was the best-house-ever and that there is not a neighborhood in this world cooler than the one we lived in growing up, but we are also far enough past the previous resentment to enjoy the neighborhood my parents live in now. We appreciate our big back yard. We appreciate that we are nearby a lake that draws people from all over the city, adding some much needed diversity to the neighborhood. Like I said, it's not a completely white neighborhood (Janaya just has to walk down the block to get her hair braided) but it certainly not what we were used to. We appreciate the pizza place that we can walk to. We have also realized that living near the airport comes in handy when we are traveling and the little kids love watching the airplanes land and take-off. There are definitely good things about being here. That being said, in my opinion nothing can compare to the *life* that bursts from neighborhoods in the inner-city.
In some ways we get the best of both worlds. Our "foundation" is the inner-city. It's where we started, it's where much of our time is spent, it's where our network is and most importantly its where out closest relationships exist. It is where my heart is, it is where I feel the most loved and it the place that truly feels like home for me.
My parents were recently checking out a few houses back in our old neighborhood, so who knows, maybe someday we will all be back! (I write about it as if it is so far away, when in reality it is less than 10 mins. from my parents house. Sometimes the two neighborhoods do feel like separate worlds though!) Whether or not our whole family moves back, the inner-city (specifically our old neighborhood) will continue to be a significant and invaluable part of our lives.