It Takes a Village: An Ideal Life
We are haunted by an ideal life, and it is because we have within us the beginning and the possibility of it. — Phillips Brooks
An Ideal Life
I believe the most ideal thing in the world to do is to dress appropriately for the weather and go outside my door to buy my food or drink or run an errand. And do it all by walking. To know that all I need are my feet to walk where I need to go is completely natural to me. Walking for the sake of walking, to me, is a terrible waste of time, and boring. I enjoy the scenery and the birds more if I'm going somewhere. This takes a village or a community. My village happens to be downtown Omaha, Nebraska. For me—an ideal life, one that has haunted me for years.
My husband builds custom homes and I’ve lived in several houses within our 41 years of marriage. A few of them have been interim homes where we live temporarily while building our new one. Building homes usually takes suburbia. So suburbia is where I’ve lived. Sometimes, in a new sub-division, I’ve lived in three different houses in the same neighborhood. And even though my husband will build for you—as he always has for me, the home of your dreams—he could never build for me the ideal life I longed for outside my door.
So last year after selling our latest home, I figured—why not take this opportunity to live this ideal life that’s always haunted me? Obviously, I will live in a home again my husband has built. That’s where I belong. But this interim living has afforded me the possibility to live out my dream – my dream of going back home, not to family or an old neighborhood, but to a lifestyle.
Last November we rented a condo in the historic Brandeis building, the legendary department store, where as a teenager, I spent my hard-earned babysitting money. We moved in just in time for the holidays and the famous Festival of Lights. After Thanksgiving dinner, our family bundled up and walked down to the Leahy Mall to join the gathered crowds for the countdown of the lights and the official opening of the holidays. Afterwards, we walked under the illumination of the trees as we strolled back to the apartment, the blinking lights atop the First National Bank Building, Omaha’s tallest skyscraper, guiding us like a beacon toward home.
Most people think of the younger set moving downtown. Even our youngest daughter and her husband moved in last year to a loft in the Old Market. But I’ve also seen and talked to quite a few folks our age. It seems our generation, 55 and over, many who’ve actually dreamt of this beckoning lifestyle themselves, have moved downtown to live permanently.
You see, downtown extended our horizons growing up in Omaha neighborhoods in the 50’s and 60’s. Even though our neighborhood had it all; downtown had more. We wanted a bigger village called the city. No wonder we sang along to the number one hit song, “Downtown,” by Petula Clark, as she belted out “Where all the lights are bright … ” on our transistor radios!
Although my roots began in the village of Little Italy, my adolescent and teenage years were north, in a traditional Catholic community in the Blessed Sacrament Parish. I walked the winding paths and trails of Miller Park, located directly across the street from our home, to church, school and the library. I skated on the park’s lagoon in the winter and hung out at the pool in the summer. I walked to my friend’s house, Parkview grocery store, and bought nickel Hershey bars at Cliff's Corner. But eventually as I grew older, I wanted more … I wanted to go downtown.