Why I Love Small Town America

H1 and I kicked off our summer holiday (or vacation, if you must) by catching the train up to Boston. It was a sensible decision - Boston, like all the best cities, is far better without a car hindering your freedom - but, for me at least, kind of a sad one. Boston.

Usually, when we go away, we'll drive if it's within a reasonable driving distance. Connecticut, Hudson River Valley, the Catskills, Vermont, the Hamptons - we've done a lot of driving together over the years we've been here in New York (well, H1's done a lot of driving, and I've done a lot of sitting in the passenger seat controlling the music, being entertaining, and giving shoddy directions that lead us down the wrong roads). And despite my complete and total belief that most people should not own cars, and there shouldn't even be such a thing as 'suburbs', I really, really love those trips.

Some of our best times have been in cars (ha! Not like that, you dirty-minded individual) and driving around the US (or the Northeastern states, at least) fulfills most of my childhood fantasies about what the perfect life would be like. I actually grew up in the suburbs, but they were the inferior suburbs of the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand, which only have idyllic beaches, good schools, varied and architecturally interesting houses, and quiet streets to their name. My own suburb was particularly disappointing, with the two minute walk to the beach that apparently precluded our getting a pool, despite years of concentrated nagging from both me and my brothers. I wanted to live elsewhere, somewhere far, far away.

Ideally, I wanted to live in the suburb of Sweet Valley, where the identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica resided, with their blond hair and their eyes the exact green-blue of the Pacific Ocean and their perfect size six figures (I assume that an '80s size six is equivalent to about a size zero or two these days, because a size six figure today would not cut it for those perfect specimens of femininity), but I would have settled for Stoneybrook, the Connecticut suburb in which The Babysitters had their Club. Maybe. Stoneybrook definitely would have been a distant second - I mean, those kids had to work (ew) and they were too young to drive, and nobody had a pool until Kristy's mum married that rich guy and she had to deal with the snobs (am I the only one who was totally on Shannon's side that whole book?)

I definitely wanted that hair (Jessica's, not Elizabeth's. Duh). Image: Babble

So my desire to be Jessica* (Elizabeth, with her outstanding grades and - let's face it - rather dull clothing was too close to who I actually was to be a figure of aspiration) started my little fondness (okay, obsession) for Small Town America, where everyone was nice and the weather was always sunny. This continued well past the age I stopped reading Sweet Valley books (12. Or 21. You decide) and mutated into an acknowledgment that while life obviously wasn't always perfect, the American dream would make sure it all worked out. Thus: Almost Famous and Garden State quickly became two of my favorite movies, and countless books about road trips were read (but not On the Road, because the Beats, no matter how I tried, really aren't my bag), and the map of America was pored over time and time again as I planned the ideal route to get me to all the best destinations, and all the ones in between. I wanted to go to every state and I wanted to eat in all the diners and I wanted to communicate silently, like without words, just with music and meaningful looks, with the person beside me, just as the me that was the amalgamation of Jessica and Penny Lane and Sam would. I knew what I would wear and what I would eat and exactly how I would soak up the small town America of my dreams.

And then I went to camp**.

*Fun fact! Apart from the fact that I'm fast approaching 30, I could totally play Jessica in any Sweet Valley vehicle. **TBC...