Savoring Sunnyside Road

Why I like the suburbs even if I don’t live there

| March / April 2003

I was helping a friend move the other day, when one of the other fellows schlepping boxes from the truck into an upstairs apartment innocently asked me where I’d grown up. “Oh, I’m from here, the city,” I replied—which was technically accurate. I spent the first year and a half of my childhood over on the North Side. But what I didn’t say was that I am really a product of the suburbs.

I have lived in the city now for many years and have no serious intention of moving anywhere. My friends all live in town, my job is an easy bicycle ride away, and all the accoutrements of the life I want to lead—the neighborhood bistro, the food co-op, the corner hardware store, the river—are all within easy reach. But as much as I sometimes want to erase suburbia from my résumé, it’s a big part of who I am; my character has been shaped more by tract houses and four-lane highways than by the bustling, gritty urbanity I identify with now.

My mom still lives in the house on Sunnyside Road where I grew up: a three-bedroom stucco version of the American dream plopped down half a block from a highway a dozen or so miles northeast of downtown. It must have seemed like a palace to my mom and dad when they were at last able to escape with their three young boys from a tiny apartment in the city.

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