This piece is fun! It’s from Paula Thesing of New York City, but what’s important to know is, although she has lived there for more than 50 years, she’s not from New York originally. She’s from Ohio. And that’s the point of her story. It’s all about perspective.
It’s one of things I am embarrassed to admit, but when I first moved to New York City in the late 60s, I regularly took the bus from 108th St. to 116th St. Eight blocks!
My excuse was that I had two babies under the age of two and was a full-time graduate student and totally exhausted.
But even that doesn’t quite convincingly absolve me. Anyone who knows just how close that is can see it was really odd. For one thing, I wasted 15 cents on bus fare.
What really does explain my laziness is the fact that I grew up in the Midwest, in a brand new housing development, in the 1950s.
Walking in such a neighborhood was an uncomfortable excursion into the unknown. First of all, there weren’t always sidewalks. The streets curved and swooped and swerved and played back on themselves. Frequently they would become what were called courts, a.k.a. dead ends.
Add to this the fact that all the houses in a given development looked pretty much alike. There wasn’t a whole lot to look at: different colored shutters and front doors and two or three shades of brick were all that distinguished one house from another. Otherwise they all blended into each other.
And — this is a big one, maybe the biggest — there were almost no trees. My neighborhood had been farmland and divested of trees a long time before. A few survived here and there, just like the isolated farmhouses, which had been preserved as artifacts of how pretty houses used to be. New trees were planted, but these fragile little things were few and far between and looked like they were fighting for survival.
I used to whine and complain about being sent on an errand to the nearest shopping center. The walk was either freezing cold in the winter with no wind breaks of any type, or scorchingly hot in the Midwestern summer with few trees and of course little shade. I would stupidly run from tiny tree to tiny tree to feel a moment of shade. Breezes? None in the summer, but there were plenty of gales from the Arctic in the winter.
Not long ago, I walked that same walk from my old home to that shopping center and found it comparatively short and pleasant. Those baby trees were now grown up and doing their job. The houses had developed personality and seemed much more interesting.
The distance is about a half-mile, the same as the distance from 108th to 116th St.
It’s just a matter of perspective.