Essays, opinions and rants

Home on the Range

Home on the Range

Remember our cheery/self-righteous plan for underscheduling this summer? So tragicomical in hindsight. 

Whit had a blast scootering around the neighborhood, jumping on random trampolines and inviting herself to swim and stay for dinner in other people’s homes; that was fine. 

Jace, though, was largely morose and bitter about not going to camp. Never mind that he did a shit ton of fun stuff: camping, fishing, biking, wake surfing, water parks, trip to East Coast, Pride parading, interactive art exhibitions, live theater and music, friend fun, etc. Reviewing seasonal highlights elicited sighs, eye-rolls and ennui-soaked slithering back upstairs to a darkened lair. Oh, teenagerdom.

This is not something I will ever personally do
The birthday cow suit went camping
The hammock burrito
Another thing I’ll never do

One of the household adults fished, camped, cycled, wake-surfed and climbed the Grand Teton this week. The other one camped and hiked while simultaneously donning the annual birthday fairy hat and crafting THREE festive and delightful birthday experiences for the THREE family members who have birthdays within 28 days of each other during the second half of summer when the certain other adult might otherwise have been lounging on the deck with iced beverages and paperbacks. THREE parties, special menus, guest lists, themes and activities, RSVPS, coordinated giving campaigns involving friends and immediate and extended family, cakes from scratch lovingly if inexpertly decorated. THREE

Cake #2 was a tiramisu. From scratch. Except for the ladyfingers, which Jeff Bezos sent.

Also three sets of houseguests (who we LOVE!), back to school stuff (and my god the paperwork nowadays is not for the disorganized among us) one kid trip to the ER (not appendicitis, just a nasty infection) and you’ve got yourself a summer.

Next year will see a return to sleepaway camps. And the teenager will get a paying job that he must leave the house to perform, ideally most days of the week for as many hours as possible. Maybe two jobs. 

The summer also saw our first anniversary of living in Park City.

It was intense saying goodbye to Cohasset last summer and moving 2,400 miles to a town where we knew exactly one family. Who promptly left the country for five months the moment we arrived (pretty sure they were going anyway, but still). 

Much has changed in our lives this past year, from the surface to the core. 

As for the surface (the core is a story for another day): 

In New England suburbs, outfits require planning even if you’re running next door for a quick sec. Women thoughtfully purchase and accessorize ensembles for afternoon play dates even though they know the slobbery goldfish crumbs and juice dribbles are coming for them. You don’t go out without advance intel on who is wearing what (unless you’re a renegade lone-wolf type, in which case good luck getting future invites). Forty-something men openly tsk-tsk friends who wear white or linen after Labor Day. 

In Utah, I answered the door wearing a decade-old T-shirt maxi dress, a little stretched and faded, fabric pilling, a dress occasionally used as a nightgown. “Whoa. Fancy,” said my husband’s friend. He looked distrustful. 

“Enough” fancy stuff here is one outfit for summer and one for winter. Actually you don’t need anything fancy in summer (unless you’re going back East to visit). So I’ve reverted to my 1990 college student look (a comfy and super cheap aesthetic indeed).

Related: We pretty much live outdoors now because there is no humidity and only 12 mosquitoes in the entire state. Windows and doors are always open. So the house is a (bugless) dusty mess and the vacuum chamber gets filled up and needs emptying three times every time we use it.

We’re outside because that is one of the tenets of Park City life. Thou shalt go outside.

Outdoor enthusiasm here is such that the gym is vaguely embarrassing. Exercising indoors -loser! Everyone has a bicycle (or five) on their four-wheel-drive high-clearance vehicles all summer, and skis or other snow-enjoying accessories all winter. People exercise beforethey exercise. I’m serious.

Everyone is breathing hard, sweating and flushed, from doing things outside, all year round. A typical greeting is “I’m not gonna hug you, I stink!” It is all very impressive and inspirational, if not the greatest smelling. Thank God that clothing-related brain space is freed up so we can focus on being more outdoorsy.

This community is also more diverse than Cohasset, MA, although no one believes that until I explain that Cohasset is 98.5 % white. (Park City is only 94 % white so that’s a step in the right direction for us, although everyone we meet sobs and frets at the lack of diversity here because they moved from San Francisco or Seattle or Houston or New York). 

There are two languages commonly spoken and written here (three if you count the elementary school French immersion program). And the tourists confer a global vibe, even if they’re muddled about how to get from point A to point B and where to eat dinner.

The robust tourism and rapid population growth here, though, are a mixed bag. 

Many people move here by choice rather than necessity. Consequently they are extremely cheerful and fulfilled (and jacked up on post-exercise endorphins) and preoccupied with enjoying Utah’s delights while avoiding mushrooming traffic issues and tourists and anyone who looks like a tourist or who might be harboring tourists in their home. 

So we are working to convince locals that we live here too– we are honest to god newly minted members of the permanent community, not tourists. 

There may be a whiff of newcomer overload in the hearts of those who arrived earlier. To anyone who is even unconsciously annoyed that we showed up, I’m sorry. But dude, it’s not your state either! 

To Utah natives, okay, yes, it is your state. But uh, we’re contributing to your economy! So there’s that! We are doing our best to get on board with your program by not being assholes, exercising our faces off and recreating outdoors constantly, vacuuming a lot, and not turning our house into an airbnb, even during Sundance. Let us know what else we can do to help.

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