Seasons Greetings from Collingswood, NJ!
We recently moved to Collingwood, NJ. It's not even a full week that we are here in this wonderful little town that bills itself as "The Place You Want to Be..." It's listed as one of America's best small towns. As a life-long city dweller, this move is a radical change for me, having lived in either row homes or apartments for my whole existence. Granted, I haven't always lived in the heart of Center City Philadelphia, but for my entire adult life, since I was 19 years old, I have lived within 2 miles of my home and wherever I may have been working at the time. The ten miles distance from my new front door to my office isn't that big of a deal. My commute takes half an hour give or take ten minutes, depending on how I get to the High Speed line station. What is so different is the attitude and tranquility and the lack of stress. We moved for all the obvious reasons - wanting more space for our son, a back yard, better schools, a better quality of life. Liz would say it was also for the parking. We were both tired of spending hours of our lives looking for parking each week. I supposed the time commuting to the City is less than the time wasted on looking for parking in South Philly. No more worrying about losing my parking space if I needed to go out after 7 pm on a weekday. No more parking a block away when the car was packed with groceries and we still had to get Nibblet into the house along with all of his accoutrement's. Nope, we traded in and up for a three story house with a substantial back yard, two car garage, small front lawn and a real porch on which you can sit and have your coffee on warm mornings. It's the Modern-Family American Dream!
Over the past two years as we discussed places where we wanted to live, Collingswood kept coming into our consciousness. First we discovered this charming small town via our friends Bobby and Julie. We had great hamburgers at the Pop Shop on Haddon Avenue and I was hooked. A few more drives and a bike ride into town and a visit to the famous Collingswood Farmer's Market convinced me that this hip, urbane town of 15,000 residents was a place that we could call home. It's walkable, cute, full of great shopping, dining and drinking establishments. It's affordable and best of all, gay-friendly. What most people don't realize is about Collingswood is that it is a remarkably progressive town. The vibe I get from the town is that it's like an ideal small town with cool amenities. Think New Hope, Cape Cod, or as I've been describing it, the unstuffy version of Chestnut Hill, PA or Haddonfield, NJ. Collingswood is cute enough to be described as quaint and charming but it still retains a bit of its working class roots.
The reaction I'm getting from people upon hearing about my move out of the city has been uniformly surprised. Most people want to know how I'm going to get to work, as though my only mode of transportation is via bicycle, which, to be honest, was true for over 25 years of my life. However, I can drive now and there is a great train that runs from my house to the City in less than 18 minutes. I can still ride my bike to the City in the Spring and Summer, taking the Ben Franklin Bridge. I can still ride my bike to the train station and if I wanted, I could take my bike on the train into the City. The other reaction I've been getting is that my friends that are City Dwellers think I'm going to become a Levittown Suburbanite. Having spent my entire 44 years as a Philadelphian, I don't think I'm going to change into an wearing an A-line skirt w/hostess apron and pearls lipstick lesbian just because I no longer live in gritty Philadelphia. Now I might don a dapper fedora and smart suit and kiss the missus as I walk out the door and head towards the train to the big city! Don Drapper's wardrobe is much more my style.
The truth of the matter is that I'm tired of the hardness of the city. I'm tired of the trash, the bad attitudes, the lack of ambition of the people who lived around our old neighborhood. I'm over the crime and hearing gun fire when I want to believe I'm hearing fire crackers. I'll still have to deal with it, it's not like I've waved some magic wand and put on rose coloured glasses and everything is magical and shiny and nice because our car is in our driveway and I can lay back on the porch couch and put my feet up while waving to Joan down the street as she walks her dog. We weren't doing things in Philly that made it feel worth living there any more. We drove a lot, didn't go out to eat all that much since Nate was born and we hardly ever took advantage of events going on in Center City. This may be the case here in NJ, but living in a smaller town gives us a community that we didn't have before. I'll still be riding my bike around town, driving to the grocery and taking Nate for our long Sunday morning strolls to the Avenue and parks. We traded up for a prettier environment, more trees, grass and friendlier neighbors.
Will I miss living in the City? Sure, but I'm also so ready for this next phase of my life. The new house is a bit bigger, not tons bigger. It's like moving from a studio apartment to a three-bedroom apartment, meaning that it's more spacious but it's not a McMansion. I'll have a bit of lawn to mow, lots of leaves to rake and Nate will have a spacious yard to run, play and drive his cars, bikes and scooters. We wanted the peace and quite and a more gentle pace to our lives. We traveled 10 miles and went across a river and already I feel like a new woman. Now where are my pearls?