Monday, May 01, 2006

Watching Diversity Out My Bedroom Window

I love my block.
When Me and the Spaniard decided we'd outgrown our NYC digs and were ready to try to live like the rest of America, in a house, on a block, in a neighborhood without multiple take-out options, we settled on Philadelphia. Why? Because we found an affordable house, in a cute neighborhood, near a train that could whisk us back to New York City in under two hours. We figured that leaving our incredibly diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn meant leaving diversity behind. You know, it was fun while it lasted. Our ambiguously brown SpaNegro boys would grow up oddities, but in exchange, they'd have fresh air to breathe and space to stretch their growing muscles.

People told us that this neighborhood we were moving to, West Mount Airy, was really diverse. But coming from NYC, I rolled my eyes and assumed they meant that some Black people were moving in and so far nobody had burned a cross on the lawn. I was skeptical. We'd been patrolling the area before buying the house and indeed people did seem remarkably friendly and open to my smiling black face and my husband's thick accent, but still I doubted. Especially when, after the closing, when the house was really ours and we spent two entire winter days on the block and all we saw were white faces scurrying to their cars. Diversity my ass, I thought.

Fast forward almost one year. I was soooo wrong. West Mt Airy is a true hodgepodge of races, cultures, class and family structures. It does not have the international flavor of New York City, of course, but the range of personal experiences is delightfully eclectic. Oprah Magazine actually just featured an article on Mt. Airy because of its long history and commitment to true diversity. But what I like about it is looking out my bedroom window and just watching the melting pot percolate outside my door.

I see the family across the street where the oldest daughter is Korean, the middle two children are Black and the little brother is a freckle-faced blond child with green eyes. Their White mother is always bustling them off to baseball games and music lessons. Last week she had to take her Black son to his Catholic confirmation. At Christmas time, I looked out the window and saw a big, Black Santa Claus adorning the window of the house across the street. Two doors down a Hanukkah flag waved in the breeze. At least three lesbian couples also reside on the block. Two with children who like to play with my children. Halloween gave me an excuse to knock on everybody's door on my block and really see who my neighbors were and I found, Black people and White people and Black people living with White people and Indian people and a Brit and a woman from Wales. How'd this happen? How did we luck into this melange of multiculturalism? It is what I have always craved and hoped for when I dreamt about "the happily ever after." But I didn't know it was called, West Mount Airy. Now it has a name.

Welcome Home.

Peace Out

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