Joco Diversions

Emily Parnell — One seductive step at a time, suburbia claims you as its own

The metamorphosis is complete. The mad scientist has fully transformed us into a family of Joco suburbanites, mutating our very élan vital. This week we moved through the final phase.

My husband has gone down kicking — I’ve got to give him that. He dug in his heels hard at first. He was sure that moving across the state line into the Promised Land full of accredited schools, lovely public pools and other such manna would strip him of his cool factor. He waited for his artsy manliness to reduce to a puddle of green wax in which he would stand, moaning, “I’m melting, I’m melting.”

But his personality remained intact. Nor did the other things we were warned of come to fruition. Neither of us became bad drivers. Our noses did not tilt five degrees farther upward. Our ability to enjoy culture was not diminished.

He didn’t keel over and in fact began to see the up side of the suburbs. The fenced yard with two beagles and a swing set, the neighborhood Price Chopper, our nice —no, make that awesome — neighbors: It all began to feel like home to him.

But last week my 20-year-old Nissan Pathfinder fatally wounded its control arm and had to be put out to pasture.

“What kind of car do you think we should get?” Thad asked me.

“I think it would be smart to get a minivan,” I replied.

He turned to me, wide-eyed with panic. He clearly enunciated, “I do


want a minivan.” His tattooed arms flexed nervously, grasping, I’m sure, for any shred of his past self — the midtown dweller with a pilot’s license who knew the best holes-in-the-wall and could walk to the Plaza from home. That old self.

“I can’t drive a minivan,” he said, shaking his head.

I laid down the logic. We could take the kids’ friends — and our parents — different places. It would be great for trips. We could pick up a couch, haul all our bikes, spread out on a trip.

“But we could get an SUV with a third row,” he said.

He set about the research. Thad’s research is meticulous, methodical and data-driven and can go on for


some time. He likes to have all the facts. For days, he quoted inches of headroom, cubic feet of cargo space, resale values, hip room, gasoline mileage. For days, I nodded and



Finally, he announced, “I think we should get a minivan.”

Done deal. And we did.

They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but there is such a thing as choosing what’s better for your family. Of course, our suburban haven isn’t without faults. The state appears to be underhandedly short-changing the school system (our school will lose our reading specialist at the end of the year. Who needs to learn how to read, right?). Our city has put brand spankin’ new gravel (chip sealer), complete with piles of gravel in my driveway, on top of perfectly good blacktop — in the name of “affordable road improvements.” And we’ve even (gasp) run across people who are genuinely snooty toward people from the opposite side of the state line. But all in all, we both agree we’ve made good decisions.


Avid fans of urban areas, given children, can adapt to and thrive in a suburban environment.


Give the Parnells a couple of offspring.


They purchased a minivan.


It’s not where you live, it’s how you choose to care for your family.