This Is Our Suburbia

I scrolled my way through someone else’s morning. Mrs Woog had snapped a few shots as she walked her children to school. I looked longingly at the footpaths and sealed roads. It was a mixture of lust and envy as I eyed off the trees and flowers hanging over the front fences of the Aussie landscape. Ahhh suburbia, I remember you.

When I landed in Canada with three little travellers and forty kilos of baby crap, I was presented with a maroon mini van and the keys to a pink house in the burbs. And today Kirsty, you will be playing the role of suburban housewife.

After two years of living in a house on a rubbled street in Libya and driving a car in which the driver’s door swung open each time I turned a corner sharply – my new pink life was a bit of a adjustment.

I remember walking into the local supermarket in Canada and standing motionless, mouth aghast at the hugeness of it all. The choice, the variety, the vegetables. The aisles filled with packets of brightly coloured nondescript processed food. “What’s Cheez Whizz?” I called out to G while holding up a jar of orange paste. “I think it’s fake cheese?” he said with both caution and disgust. We were both puzzled, we stared at it for a moment, both asking the same question. Why? We’d been deprived of real cheese for so long. Why wouldn’t you just buy the real stuff? It was right there, two aisles over. Why would you eat the fake cheese?

I think it probably took about a month before I began to spend more time in the colourful aisle. The little packets of snacks for playgroup. The two minute noodles, the spaghetti sauce in a jar. Ready made curry paste was so much faster than growing herbs and getting out the mortar and pestle. All of the things we had done without. The times we’d had to return to scratch. Not anymore.

I woke up this morning to news of a sandstorm. The sky had an orange tint and the air was already heavy with the mixture of humidity and dust. It was hot outside but my arm (the arm that was resting on top of the bed covers) was freezing. The air-conditioner in our bedroom has two temperatures, freezing or geez it’s hot in here. This morning provided some spectacular negotiations “I’m not going to school today, I have nothing to wear” and “I’m not going to school because the swimming teacher makes me lay on my back and do this thing that I can’t do.”

“You know, Mummy used to be a swimming teacher…”

“Good, you can write him a note and tell him you’ll teach me another day – I won’t do it today.”

We stared at each other for a moment. I raised an eyebrow. He cracked. “I’ll go get my bathers…but next week I’m not doing it!”

We drove out of our compound and onto the street that has been in a constant state of renewal in the three years that we’ve lived here. We fit four lanes of traffic into two, nudging ourselves between others. As we edged our way to the entry of a roundabout the sensors of my car beep, trucks to the right of me, and 4 wheel drives to the left. All of us waiting to launch into the first available gap. After a stint of speed with my hand purposely hovering over the horn, we made it to our final set of traffic lights. A decision needed to be made, an illegal turn or wait in line? We all looked at the clock. Once we’d made it through we careered over the curb and down a hill into a vacant block, this used to makes us squeal, now it’s just a part of the routine. I wave to same faces; a man in a thobe, another in a security uniform. I smile at the policeman with the gun before watching my children make their way through the school gates.

This is our suburbia. It looks so different but somehow strangely feels the same.

What does yours look like?

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