Today I am going to take a cue from my fellow WWP News columnist Dick Snedeker and take a look back at my life as the Suburban Mom in the West Windsor-Plainsboro community, living my life “out loud” as a writer in these pages.
It has been 14 and a half years since my very first column in The News, published as an ode to living in Plainsboro and loving our newly adopted hometown. In the summer of 2003, Katie was 12, Molly was 9, and wee Will was but a babe of only four. My, how the time has flown and my, how everything has changed, not only my children, but also the towns that have shaped our family’s history.
You know you’ve joined the ranks of the old-timers in Plainsboro when you can remember the Two Guys discount store that frontlined the Plainsboro shopping plaza, now anchored by Planet Fitness, a brand new dollar store and a child care center.
We saw Peebles come and go, as well as the ACE hardware store. I called both of those departures very early on, wondering how either store could thrive given our town’s easy access to bustling Route 1. I had also wryly predicted the rapid demise of Peebles with this observation: “not high-end enough for the likes of my girls; not bargain basement enough for me.”
We shopped for years at SuperFresh, and it feels for an even greater number of years, have suffered for lack of a major supermarket in town. How ironic that the signs indicate that everything old might become new again with the impending arrival of—da da da da—Super Fresh!
For years, I was a stalwart at Acme in West Windsor. Today, we have an amazing and welcome new addition: Woo Ri Mart, which translates from Korean as “Our Store.” And indeed it is quickly becoming our family store. I ran into my friend Jamie there this week, and she confirmed for me what I had thought; no longer do we have to run up Route 1 to Edison and H Mart.
This store has all the Korean staples we need and then some, with a food bar that includes freshly made sushi—all at completely competitive prices! I am very excited and wish this store had moved in a long time ago.
Another of the steadiest tenants has been Aljon’s Pizza, and we still enjoy their calzones, a staple of our early family life, which we would devour after swimming at Waterworks.
In the early days, all three kids couldn’t wait for the long summer days at the community swimming pool, punctuated by long waits in line for the concession, made tolerable by the delicious anticipation of catsup-drenched fries and Popsicles dripping sweet stickiness in the scorching sun.
Waterworks gave way to pleas to go “down the shore” where lifeguards would not blow the whistle to get you out of the water because of a diaper mishap—something that happened a couple of times too many for finicky teenagers to tolerate.
Laid back for parents but just competitive-enough recreational soccer games at the community parks for both towns were traded in for travel baseball and then, in turn, for Will, for tournament lacrosse, and laid back was no longer in the vocabulary. Overnight, it seems, he is away from home doing captains’ practices and performing pre-season calisthenics at Middlebury; the future arrived so quickly, way too quickly.
For years, we wondered about the college admissions process and sought to learn everything we could about standardized tests and tutoring and hitting the right balance between academic performance and development of the “whole child.”
Where would they get in and what choices would they make; what would they want to study, and what careers might they choose to pursue? While Will is just at the very beginning of that path, his older sisters are well on their way.
Katie is working in marketing for a real estate investment startup in California; after graduating with a double major in political science and French, Molly is wrapping up a masters degree in political economy at the London School of Economics.
Our work as parents is by no means done, but the heavy lifting of the every day is over. That brings a certain relief, but also a melancholy of sorts; my babies have grown up and don’t need me so much any more.
I will be honest. I used to pass judgment on friends who chose not to have children. Never directly to them, of course, but inside, I would think how sorry I felt for them, depriving themselves of one of life’s greatest experiences. Now, older and wiser, I appreciate and respect their personal choices. I understand the tremendous expense and personal sacrifice parenting takes, and that it is not for everyone. And there is one aspect of their child-free lives that I actually envy.
They don’t have to worry about the safety of their babies out in a world that is all too cruel all too often and seem to be getting more so every day. They don’t have to wonder, as I do, whether or not my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have to deal with a nuclear war or post nuclear world, or if global warming will take out favorite escapes at the Jersey shore or California beaches.
There’s a certain freedom in knowing that your loved ones are invulnerable to danger. But there is nothing I would trade for being the parent of my children, or raising them in this wonderful community. They say kids need roots and wings, and this is the place where they have grown both.