I’m taking a short break from the relentless grant writing (yes it’s that season again) to reflect on my (new) hometown of 10 years. Yes, Cambridge. Last week I wrote a pretty scathing indictment of Cambridge as icebox, but since then a few days of 60 degree weather has eased my winter discontent. I’ve been writing furiously for the last few weeks at our favorite neighborhood café dwelltime, and I keep overhearing conversations about that other bastion of progressiveness, San Francisco. It makes me nostalgic; I lived in the Inner Sunset for five years. I loved it and had a hard time leaving, but I have since set down roots here.
What I loved about San Francisco I’ve also found here—which is why it wasn’t surprising to me that it would come up in conversations comparing the two. Cambridge is quirky, diverse, left-leaning (it is the People’s Republic after all), bustling with independent shops and charm. Though winters are definitely more brisk, there are true seasons here, with a definite spring and summer (btw, my sweater collection is actually from my five years in the Bay Area fog, blustery rain and summer chill).
Some ask us when we are going to move to the affluent Boston suburbs to a “real” home (as if our condo isn’t our home sweet home) with a two-car garage. “Oh, so glad to see you are making do with your small space” they nod, smiling condescendingly. “You aren’t going to send your children to the public schools in Cambridge, are you?” I can just hear the disapproving tone. Here’s the thing, our family is happy here—where else would we be within a 10-minute walk to two grocery stores, two post offices, two hardware stores, a toy store, at least five cafes, numerous bars and restaurants (including a pizza and sandwich shop, a serious deli, and award-winning ice cream parlor), a major “T” stop, the main public library, our son’s preschool, five parks, three public elementary schools, a middle school, high school, and oh yeah--two internationally renown universities? There is a reason the mid-Cambridge walk score was 95 (out of a possible 100, yeah!).
But at the end of the day, it all comes down to what works for each family. Many of my good friends have fallen in love with their ideal homes--many in suburban settings--and I am so happy for them. For us, we have fallen hard for Cambridge: we love the cozy neighborhood feeling, our spacious three-bedroom home, and the quick commute to work. We look forward to our children being in a diverse, progressive public school system. As someone who for seven years lived in rural backwaters and was the only non-white child in a private parochial school (of 800 children), I vowed I would never replicate that kind of alienating experience for my children. I am comfortable with our decision to live here; I am also comfortable changing my mind and moving if needed—for more space for the kids as they grow, for different schools if needed, even for that two-car garage. I never would have thought fifteen years ago that I would ever leave the Bay Area--and yet, here I am. The art of life is enjoying the now, being content with what you have, but also being comfortable with change. Because change is inevitable, especially with a young, growing family. I’m excited to see where our journey will take us, even if it’s only taking a walk down the block to pick up some bagels.