We Forgot to Move to the Suburbs

“It’s a great location for a young couple, walking distance to downtown, to bus routes, bars and restaurants. The perfect STARTER home”

That was how our house was sold to us as a newlywed couple in their twenties. 18 years and 2 kids later, we’re still here and not planning on moving any time soon. We’re all in on raising our kids in the city. Disclaimer, we do not live in a “Toronto” kind of a city. Winnipeg is like a slightly larger small town. But in recent years, like so many cities, it has become victim to the sprawl as more new developments push the city limits out farther every day. 

I sometimes question my decision but mostly because family, friends, TV shows I watched growing up, Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, and society as a whole have planted the idea in my head that once you grow up you leave the city and move to the suburbs. You buy a big house, with a big yard, and settle into a life of soccer games, minivans, and outlet malls. Now I’m not yucking your yum if you’re a suburbanite. I spent my childhood in the burbs and have fond memories of riding my bike down street after street of perfectly groomed kelly green grass, running through sprinklers in sprawling yards, chasing the Dickie Dee bike barefoot for my daily rocket pop fix. And I won’t lie, I feel a twinge of envy after our friends one by one move onto their grown up homes. I go through phases where I spend more time than necessary on online realtor sites, manifesting the “perfect” home in the “perfect” neighbourhood. Then I shake my head and take a quick walk around the block to remind myself I’m already there. 

Obviously not perfect, but to pull the cliche card, it’s perfect for us. When I’m questioned why I basically list off the three following; 

  • Diversity. That’s not just diversity in demographics – although I’m grateful my sons do go to schools with a group of racially and socio-economically diverse kids and that my neighbours are a mix of single folks, couples, families, multi generational and family households. What I mean when I say diversity is a lack of homogeny. As lovely as many of the new planned neighbourhoods are, they are very beige or vanilla as we like to say. In the city you get an ancient sweeping tree canopy over a mix of houses, from small rental properties, to two and a half story heritage homes in a rainbow of colours and finishes from a century of decorating. Boulevards with a blend of beautiful plant overgrowth to an old tweed couch with a sign and reads “free” that may or may not house a family of racoons. A spicier, less bland view on my morning walks. 
  • Convenience. The number one deal breaker in any home I purchase is if I have to drive everywhere. I never want to have to get in my car to buy milk. If I’m being honest, sometimes I do but I don’t want to HAVE to. I am currently within a 10 minute walk of three locations to buy milk so I’m set. On top of the necessities, we are also close to coffee shops, music venues, and countless restaurants. Obviously you can live without being able to pick up sushi at 11:00 pm but let’s be honest, is that really living?
  • Style factor. As much as we pretend we don’t care what other people think, we care what other people think. I compare it to your clothes suiting and fitting your well. Choosing where to settle is like asking does this neighbourhood make my butt look good? It has to fit. The rows upon rows of giant beige new builds…definitely don’t fit us. Front step hangs, grooving out to music pumping from the flyer delivery kid’s headphones? That’s more like it. 

This might all change as we change. I never say never. I learned that the hard way with Athleisure wear, I once swore I would never wear tights as pants and yet here I am, living my best life in spandex. It does get exhausting deciding between leveling out the ever shifting house, keeping water out of the cellar, or keeping out the drafts from each new crack as every year we get further away from its build date of 1912. The constant hum of buses and cars, people out at all hours and being close enough to my neighbours house to hand them a cup of sugar through the window can wear on you. But until then we’ll stay firmly planted in our 100 year old piece of paradise/parking lot.

– Heather

Heather is a Winnipeg artist, creator, and blogger. Find her on Instagram and check out her blog Good Toast Studios. Header image taken by Tiara Nicole Photography.

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