Guest blog by Sande Boritz Berger
I grew up in the 1950’s and early 60’s suburbia, which for many required certain adjustments depending on your roots and past environment. For me, moving away from the busy streets of Brooklyn and my beloved grandparents at the age of seven catapulted me into a state of shyness and insecurity, which continued through-out high school. Instead of an active participant, I became an observer, which set me apart from others but also made me feel safe. Eventually, I found my own interests and a few close friends, but because I was the youngest of my class, I felt distanced from the crowd.
I spent a great deal of time at the local library reading books about young, fictional girls who I admired. Like many girls growing up in that era, the strong female characters of Heidi and Nancy Drew were two of my favorites. Yet it wasn’t until my college years, when I realized being different and nonconforming might actually be something positive and admirable. Clubs, like photography, the school newspaper, and Acapella choir offered the creative outlets I craved, and ultimately raised the degree of self-confidence I often lacked.
Yet, it’s still difficult for me to believe that instead of choosing an exotic life of travel and mystery, after marrying and giving birth to my daughters, I found myself once again in suburbia. Though it’s even harder to understand why I’d choose to live in a house thirty-five minutes from where I’d grown up. It became the place that I would return to time and time again when my girls were just toddlers, so that I could show them the duckpond and my elementary school just a block away. At first, I found this popular cul-de-sac living stimulating as it immediately led to new friendships. Yet sometimes I craved more privacy and time alone. Something that rarely existed in suburban life.
In my second novel, Split-Level, when we first meet the main protagonist, Alex Pearl, she is standing in her kitchen, talking on the yellow wall phone with her new friend, Rona. She is a young woman whose sole purpose in life may be just sharing advice to make herself feel valuable. Newcomer Alex is quick to take the advice because it’s a small step toward bonding in this strange new environment called: Suburbia. Forget ambiguity, here’s a place where everyone knows your name, and the exact shade of your house’s siding. Yet mostly because with someone, sometimes anyone, the cold shock of all the new changes, and secret dreams put on hold, may make you feel a little less lonely.
After nearly two decades as a scriptwriter and video producer for Fortune 500 companies, Sande Boritz Berger returned to her first passion: writing fiction and nonfiction full time. Essays and short stories have appeared in over 20 anthologies including Aunties: “Thirty-Five Writers Celebrate Their Other Mother” by Ballantine, and “Ophelia’s Mom” by Crown. She is the author of two novels, The Sweetness and Split-Level. Visit her at sandeboritzberger.com