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What Feels Like Home

February 2, 2010 16:26:45.003

I had to drive my daughter somewhere the other day, and we got to talking about the somewhat artificial feeling that surrounds the place we live (Columbia, MD - created out of whole cloth 40 some odd years ago). There' wasn't any real economic driver for this place; there still isn't. Very few people living here are actually from here; it's a bedroom community, with most people commuting down to the DC suburbs where the local jobs are. The fact that I work out of the house makes me something of an outlier here, I guess.

Anyway - I often read people talking about the supposedly tighter community feeling in a city, but I don't think that has anything to do with it. What I think matters is what you might call local permanence: how many people have their roots in an area (meaning, their family ties to the immediate region go back more than a generation)? The higher that number is, the more a place is going to feel like home for kids born there. The lower it is, the less they'll feel that way. The famous theories about "suburban alienation" don't really have much to do with the suburbs, IMHO - they have to do with transience. I rather suspect that city neighborhoods with low levels of "permanence" have the same levels of alienation.

I don't know whether this actually leads me anywhere; it's just a set of thoughts that grew out of a conversation I had with my daughter. Food for thought though...

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posted by James Robertson

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