Recently it has been suggested to us—and I’m not going to name any names here, not going to disclose who could have made such a detestable suggestion—that Martin might heal better if we were to move to the suburbs.
We are not suburban people. We are a city family. We pay top dollar for overcrowding, grime, shouting, car horns, and traffic. In exchange, we enjoy multi-ethnic and multi-generational neighbors, quality restaurants, every life necessity within a five-minute walk, the Met, museums, theaters, and a ZIP code where Wal-Mart is not welcome.
It’s not that I look down on my friends in the suburbs. They have vegetable gardens and swing sets and garages. Entire garages all to themselves! It’s like they own weekend houses for every day of the week. But it’s not for us.
Right now I do wish we owned a weekend house, some retreat somewhere. That might put an end to this “move to the suburbs” talk.
Alas, we don’t. We’ve never wanted anything more than our apartment, never felt we would even consider leaving the city.
Will we consider it now? Yes.
Would we actually move? That’s another question.
My initial reaction to the suburbs suggestion was no. That’s it. That’s the line I will not cross. That’s the thing I will not do.
Yet haven’t I always said there is nothing I would not do to recover my son?
My second reaction to the suburbs suggestion was skepticism. How could that be necessary? Is the urban jungle so bad? I feel fine. Adrian feels fine. The parks are full of healthy kids.
Yet I am not blind. I’ve had my suspicions. I saw how well Martin did when we rented an isolated house in Maine this summer. Autism is now widely regarded as linked to an underlying immune disorder, and persons on the spectrum react poorly to radio frequencies, air pollution, electromagnetic fields, excessive stimuli. We have noisy, dirty construction sites on three sides of our building. Let’s face it: In a city-suburb face-off to produce the most air pollution and radio frequencies, the city would kick some suburb butt.
My third reaction to the suburbs suggestion was trepidation. What if we tried moving, and it helped? What if we had to stay in the suburbs? What if we—liked it?
That’s about when my angry, cynical side chimed in. The suburbs, with their chemical-laden golf courses and manicured lawns? The suburbs, where home lots abut power plants and electric lines? That will help Martin heal?
Adrian and I are wrestling now with the whole suburbs idea. Autism-warrior-me is wrestling with angry-cynical-me. We’re all exploring alternatives. A short-term relocation or other trial run. Making our apartment as safe as possible.
In some ways it comes down to identity. I identify myself as a city person. We’ve changed so much already. I’ve quit my job and given up most of my volunteer work to focus on Martin instead.
But I didn’t work my way through college and law school to become a suburban housewife.
Or did I?