I grew up in a place I can’t quite quantify. I suppose you could say it was – and likely is – a suburb. A few friends have referred to my home as being ‘in the country.’ We certainly haven’t the numbers to play at being a city, but it doesn’t – and never has – felt rural to me either.
I grew up with plenty of green around, but the homes were packed together tightly with new houses and apartment buildings cropping up all the time. There was always a strip mall on the next horizon. We have a shopping mall and an airport. There are chain restaurants every mile and a Wawa seemingly every half mile. We had well funded and large public schools between many separate districts. Even now there is a farm near the old homestead, but it mostly lays fallow in the hands of a family that doesn’t seem to care about the crops all that much. And the further out farms keep being turned over to the bulldozer’s blade and ripper.
Also, Delaware – specifically the northern and most populous county – is politically blue which kind of rules out being rural these days.
At some point I started referring to the place as Arcadia, because it didn’t feel like anywhere else. It was always kind of strangely magical. Or maybe it’s the lack of sales tax. I get those two confused.
For all of the places mentioned above, we still had parks and forests around to explore – and we even get new land appointed as parkland regularly. There was even a swimming hole when I was a very little child, which seems like a magical concept in and of itself until you account for leeches and bacteria. If you needed a slice of magic from the outside world you were in luck. Philadelphia and Baltimore were an hour away, and New York and Washington D.C. were two hours away. It really is a neat kind of place despite what you’ve heard from folks on the outside of it. It may not be as exciting as a lot of other places, but it has its charms.
I left Arcadia when I was eighteen as a newly minted adult, ready to go to college. I discovered I had a taste for the city. In Philadelphia there was always something new to experience (for good or ill) and it proved a great and fertile ground for my imagination. The pace was very different and the lifestyle accommodating to the creative soul. But, I would return bi-monthly at least to my homeplace where I could recharge (or at least do laundry) and see the friends and places close to my youth.
It has been quite some time though since my four year stint in Philadelphia, and I still yearn to live in the city. However, Delaware has a kind of lulling effect. It takes you in, lets you bask in hot summer days and fortify yourself in hopefully warm environs during the occasionally cruel winters. The beaches call to me, and I have a lot of history, family, and good memories of this place. Yes, occasionally it smells like poop, the traffic is uncharacteristically miserable for a place of its size, and the job market can sometimes suck – but you know, that sounds like Philadelphia more and more now that I think of it. Yet… I like it here anyway.