A Break Up Letter to the Suburbs

Dear Suburbs:

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to write, but it's official. I have met someone else and I have moved out. I’ve moved to where there are cleaner and greener spaces, leaving behind your noise and light pollution. I think you already know what I am going to say, and yes, I’m talking about Small Town and Rural America.

I'm not trying to hurt you.

It's not you, it's me. For example, you knew I detested the "quick trip" to the grocery store that takes over an hour. Small Town makes it so easy. I can get it done in less than 10 minutes if I need to, and if it’s a hot day with more errands to run, Small Town suggests I leave my freezer items there until I'm ready to go home. I have to be honest, Suburbs, it’s a weakness they could fill and what every busy, working parent needs. That’s just how great Small Town is.  

You see, Suburbs, for all of the "family friendly" hype, you’ll never be like Small Town and forget about being Rural! You won’t give my children a work ethic like Rural does. You don't give them the space they need to haul wood, clear brush, raise and tend small animals, the garden, fruit trees, or a place to roam when they need peace. You don’t even get the lesson that Rural teaches in offering up these opportunities.

Even though my next door neighbor’s house was only 25 feet from mine and my backyard neighbor could look right into my living room, I felt without a real community for nearly 15 years. I rarely miss the 30-45 minute daily commute to go to my office 18 miles away and paying to park five blocks away in a garage. Or the 50+ hour work weeks necessary to afford full-time child care and a suburban home. Suburbs, you leave no time to go seek community. You promised more options than Rural and Small Town, but when it came down to it, you kept us without time, means and a quality of life we needed.  

My closest neighbors today may be a half a mile away, but they often stop by in a truck with the blade to clear a snow drift or two for us, bring extra plants or produce from their garden to ours, or maybe even a chicken from the deep freeze. Here my children feel like valued members of their communities, that they too can grow in a meaningful way. This all means the world to me, because it is hard enough to be a family in a busy world, let alone just being a number or a neighbor no one knows.

You claim you want my family there, but you don't know my family like they do. You never welcome us back after a vacation or let us know we were missed from a community event or that you're happy that we are a part of something you offer. Your actions speak louder than words, Suburbs. They really do.

Oh sure, I sacrifice having a coffee kiosk to drink too much coffee at or 24 hour access to whatever I want at the local Super-Who’s it-What’s it. But, you know what I’d rather have? Access to a local farmer whose practices and family I know. I like the quality of doing business with people who appreciate me doing so. I relish the walk out to my garden to pluck out ripe fixings for a healthy meal. And I especially love picking apples from my own trees knowing that there are very few layers this apple passes through to get from the branch to my children’s lips. I’m comforted by being able to look out my kitchen window each morning and seeing the sun rise on the entire horizon, and repeating that process at sunset outside my living room window as if I’m bearing witness to something truly miraculous. It’s not you, it’s me.

I hate to do it this way, Suburbs, but Small Town and Rural get it. I’m breaking the mold; I’m not buying into the hype that you are better for my family. You’ve proven this theory wrong, time and again. Goodbye Suburbs. Maybe I’ll visit, and I hope you’ll consider writing me back, though I doubt you even know I’m gone.

Never Yours,
Sandra Renner

This breakup letter is a part of our Love Letters to Rural America project. Participate with your own love letter by submitting it here or tweeting at @cfra with #LoveRural in your message.