I’ve lived in the suburbs my whole life, but I’ve always been close to the city. I love the city. I love the many things it offers and don’t often mind its obvious faults. Unlike the suburbs or the country, the city is honest. It’s bare with its beauty and splendor in the form of manicured parks and streets and with its massive buildings almost breathing at night with their twinkling lights, but it is also raw in the form of crime. It is home to places you wouldn’t dare visit alone and places where one suddenly finds God, if caught on a dark and seedy street, after a wrong turn. And the city has, of course, its homeless. Individuals both young and old, who look at us through dark and hollow eyes. Eyes that tell us that life has beaten them down and that whisper a chilling connection to us. A connection that tells us we have managed to avoid the shipwreck that life can bring…for now. But I still love the city and, in my opinion, the busier, the bigger, the better.
However, I think I may have lost something by living here. I went to a wedding celebration recently. The bride is a long-time friend of mine. This was her second marriage, after a troubled first marriage. The guy she married she had reconnected with on Facebook. It turned out that I knew him from college, so this was quite the event for us both. The wedding was a small, private one and the celebration took place in the rural outskirts of town. The destination included a beautiful, 45-minute drive through open countryside. The houses along the way boasted three and four acres of land along “busy” streets. When we arrived, I waded through the large crowd (about 50 people had already come and gone, I was told) to find and hug the new couple. There was much laughter and tears of joy as the bride re-introduced me to the long-lost friend from college.
After touring her new home, nestled among trees alive with deer, raccoons, and squirrels and whose property rested its edges along a small creek, I found a plate, filled it with chicken wings, crackers and dip, chips and salsa, and found my way to a corner…near the cake table. While standing there, enjoying my food and wondering if I should try two slices from two cakes or merely a small slice of one, I became aware of conversations going on around me. They went something like, “Now, are we still doing lunch on Tuesday?” and “I think we’re going to catch a movie Friday night, can you join us?” and “Are you coming to game night?” It occurred to me later that when one lives in a rural area, the entertainment becomes the company of others, rather than, say, a day alone shopping in the city.
This is not to say that I don’t get together with friends, but it takes real effort on both our parts for it to occur. For example, I had a lunch date this past weekend with a friend of mine that we have been planning since September. On another occasion recently, I offered a get-together which would have included 12 people but only 5 showed. Even my own family, all of us born near the city, of course, prefers busy-ness over a face to face. In stark contrast, my husband’s family–all from the country–is usually eager to gather for a meal and to visit one another, even if it is mostly watching TV.
I still love and enjoy the city and would feel like an alien or, rather, more of an alien, if I had to move too far from its cold yet ample arms. However, I miss the warmness that real friendship can bring–friendships that seem to flourish in the wheat fields and rolling hills of the South’s rural areas.