I’m writing this from a chain coffee shop in a strip mall a few blocks from D’s elementary school. Today has been fragmented in the way so many of my days seem to be lately: a few hours making small talk with parents who are showing us the ropes of popcorn volunteering, a few hours on campus answering student emails and reading reviews of Halberstam’s new book about Lady Gaga and wondering whether I should assign it for my Mass Culture class next semester, back to the elementary school for the book fair, then the coffee shop, then back to the elementary school, then back across town to go home.
I wrote the other day about how I have this more is more is more problem, but maybe the problem isn’t the more, it’s the driving to get to the more. The girls go to school in a nearby district and we can’t afford the extended day care at the preschool, so on days when I’m working I drive D to kindergarten, then drive Lucy and Margeaux to my mom’s house or T’s mom’s house, then drive to campus, then drive to my downtown class, then drive back to campus. By noon I’ve spent around 90 minutes in the car. Now add the driving to gymnastics and dance, the drive to school and back on days when I’m not working, and let us not forget the 45 minute commute to the night class, and I’m starting to feel like I live in my car. If you need further evidence, just look at the mountains of jackets, shoes, empty travel mugs, granola bar wrappers, and mismatched gloves accumulating in the minivan.
One possibility is to try and move to the district where the girls are enrolled, home of the strip mall chain coffee shop. Housing prices are affordable here (if we could sell our house, a nightmare which I will address in another post). We love the elementary school and have every reason to believe we would continue to be satisfied with the academic experience. There’s a Spanish immersion program and a championship marching band. There’s also a Romney/Ryan/Take Back Our Country yard sign in every other front yard.
The parents we’ve met have been lovely: friendly, funny, welcoming. I’ve asked lots of questions about the district, and everyone has been eager to be helpful, offering insight and perspective on teachers and schools. What I don’t know how to ask is, are we going to be welcome here once you find out we don’t go to church and my kids are ardent fans of President Obama? It seems crass, somehow, to bring it up, like I’m accusing them of intolerance when they’ve been nothing but genuine and kind. But I can’t help but wonder if it just hasn’t occurred to them that I’m an interloper of sorts, if they’re simply assuming that if we moved here we would join the neighborhood Bible study group and our kids would go to Sunday school with their kids.
I want to be clear that I’m not hesitant about living in a community where faith is an important part of many people’s lives. I just don’t know how to gauge the centrality of faith and politics in establishing relationships here, and one of the things I really am longing for is a neighborhood where I can have coffee with other moms and carpool to preschool and feel connected to my neighbors and my kids’ schools and my community.But if those activities all include Bible study, this is just not going to work.
I want less time driving and more time doing, and in order to get that, something’s gotta give. My schedule next semester is shaping up to be slightly less time intensive behind the wheel, but there’s still the crazy morning commute: so much time and money wasted. This might be the only area of my life where I can say with absolutely certainty that I want less. I just wish I knew how to figure out whether or not we might want to call this place home.