I read a blog in the NY Times yesterday that posed the question – Is it better to raise kids in the city or in the suburbs. The city offers much diversity, culture and easy transit. The suburbs have green space, nature, traffic but a slower pace of life. Basically more sophisticated kids vs. more sheltered kids. But there was one right of passage that this writer had to endure raising her urban teenage son; not the first shave, concert or kiss but his first mugging. She preached to him and warned him to be careful. He understood but didn’t think it would happen to him. He was invincible as most teenagers are. He was mugged at age 14 when he got off the bus with his friends one Saturday evening. No one was hurt. The mother’s first thought was to get out of the city . . . move somewhere safe! But she maintained her calm and knew that there would only be so much she could do to protect her son. If they moved to the suburbs there were cases of crazy teenage drivers or ticks with lime disease! When I think about all the drinking and driving that went on in the rural area that I grew up in – yikes!
Really, in my opinion, neither place is better it’s just personal preference. Stacy and I own a 2-flat in Chicago, in a neighborhood north of downtown. It’s a very nice neighborhood with lots of families and feels safe. But I’ve lived in the city for many years and know that anything is possible. You might think that when I heard banging and pounding downstairs in the middle of the day, a couple of days ago, a red flag would have gone up. It didn’t. Our downstairs neighbors are around on week days and they make a lot of noise, moving things or the 3-year old runs across the apartment or bangs on drums. Our big heavy door in front makes a big thunk when it shuts. No big deal, that’s part of living on top of each other. Sirens run up and down our street at all hours of the day . . .you learn to tune out the noise.
Then Stacy said, “I think the apartment downstairs was just broken into.” No way. I went downstairs and sure enough it looked like their door had been hacked at but it was closed and the bottom lock still secure. She said that two young Mexican guys went out the gate and then took off in their old SUV. “Were they carrying anything?” No. Just moments before, she had been in the basement doing laundry and heard them above in the apartment, normal noises and then came upstairs. After accidentally dropping a shoe, she heard scurrying downstairs. Her gut told her that something was wrong.
Various thoughts went through my head. Maybe they didn’t get in? Maybe the neighbors scuffed the door taking something in or out? The door didn’t look that bad. Maybe it really didn’t happen? I didn’t want to call the police with a false alarm. So, we went down the back and into the apartment to check it out. I know, I know, it’s like a horror movie when you’re yelling at the character not to go down to the dark basement. I quietly opened the door and listened. No one was there so we walked through. All the lights were on and everything looked fine – the TV was still there! But then we got to the front door and the dead bolt was on the ground. Okay, let’s get out of here and call the police. It’s weird, like slow motion when you’re trying to take in what has happened but yet not knowing what really happened.
Years ago, when I lived out in the suburbs with my parents, they had a break-in. Stacy and Arloa were sleeping downstairs and I had just gotten home from my part-time job as a waitress. I was in the upstairs bathroom getting ready for bed, all the lights were out and I heard Stacy saying something. I peaked out and she said that a guy had just walked out the sliding glass door! I thought, you’re crazy, but then I saw that my purse with my hundred bucks I had just made that night was gone! That’s a story within itself. And don’t even get me started on living in Wicker Park in the late 90s.
The police arrived got all the info and unfortunately the thieves did get a couple of laptop computers and other things. They think that these two hooligans must have heard us upstairs, otherwise the apartment would have been wiped clean. A neighbor came over and said that right before they broke in, a guy had knocked on her window to see if anyone was home. They saw her in her apartment, so on to our building.
The rest of the day, I felt icky but kept telling myself that no one was hurt and shit happens. I made a decision right then that I wasn’t going to let those two idiots sway me into living in fear. Fear breeds more things to be afraid of. Focus on the positive. The next day, our neighbor told me that he had tracked his credit card to a gas station in town – a few hundred dollars charged right away. He investigated further and found that they had charged fifteen bucks in gas but then a couple hundred dollars in lottery tickets! What? Don’t they know about karma?