The seamy side of suburbia’s American dream: Spring cleaning

“I think the message to, uh, psychos, fanatics, murderers, nutcases all over the world is, uh, ‘do not mess with suburbanites.’ Because, uh, frankly we’re just not gonna take it any more. Ya know, we’re not gonna be content to look after our lawns and wax our cars, paint our houses. We’re out to get them, Don, we are out to get them.”

~ Art Wiengartner in “The ‘Burbs”

The suburbs of the American Midwest have a culture all their own, usually involving the worship of All Things Big: Walmart, SUVs, economy-sized ketchup and long commutes.

We live in oversize cardboard houses with distinctive design features like three-car garages and mailboxes acquired at Home Depot. We weed-and-feed the grass to make it grow and then we mow it down. The houses are close enough together that we can look into each other’s windows, but unless someone is playing Judas Priest at top volume, we can pull the shades and pretend we have the privacy of a Greek island.

We suburbanites in the Midwest have been holed up since Christmas, grinding out the snow and cold of the Winter That Will Never End (well, some of us have been holed up since Christmas; some of us have been cowering in the natural-gas-heated corner since returning from South Padre Island on March 1).

Today, spring arrived. Sunshine reigned, the air was warm enough to wear shorts and the wind was pleasantly breezy instead of oppressively monsoon-like.

Suburbanites all over my neighborhood practiced a tradition as old as the municipal sewer system: Spring yard work. The American dream of home ownership comes with the nightmare of constant housekeeping, indoors and out.

Sure, some folks took advantage of the nice weather today by going for a bike ride or watching an outdoor baseball game, maybe visiting an ice cream store. But if you own a home with 3.5 bathrooms and no-maintenance vinyl siding, you  spent the day attending to your abode.

The back yard, in all its spring cleaning glory.

The back yard, in all its spring cleaning glory.

We stained the deck.

And power washed the patio furniture that’s been stored all winter in the utility shed.

And changed the oil in the lawnmower.

OK, I didn’t do any of those things. My Beloved did. But I did help. Mostly, I was errand girl (“get this,” “bring me that,” “put this away”). But I also stained the tops of the fence posts (no, I don’t know what difference it makes either, but I’m married to a Virgo — I don’t ask questions). I’m guessing my neighbors wondered who was the lady wearing shorts and cursing the 40-foot-wide blue plastic tarp as she attempted to fold it for storage.

Despite being a suburbanite, I generally avoid yard work. The neighbors like my friendly talkative husband and speculate about his mystery wife who is rarely seen and only heard from when she’s yelling at the dog to quit barking in the back yard.

“I’ve been watching that house ever since they moved in. No one goes in. No one comes out.
No visitors. No deliveries.
What do you think they’re eatin’, Ray?”

~ Art Wiengartner in “The ‘Burbs”

For other pictures that capture culture around the world, check out this week’s WordPress photo challenge.

12 responses to “The seamy side of suburbia’s American dream: Spring cleaning

  1. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture (Picnic aka Pique Nique) | What's (in) the picture?

  2. It seems like most entries by Americans for this week’s photo challenge were taken when people went on vacation to some place they considered exotic. Fun to see something about our own culture and with such an excellent essay to accompany it.

    • You get me, Evolution! That’s exactly what I was attempting to express. Everyone everywhere is part of a culture. It may not always be pretty (or exotic), but it exists. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. I was tempted to take a photo of a parking lot to exemplify the culture I live in. Nice choice.

  4. Pingback: 4-28-13 Weekly Photo Challenge #2 (Bridal Edition): Culture | The Quotidian Hudson

  5. You made me laugh today after I came inside from “helping” my husband clean the deck and outdoor furniture. 🙂 Spring cleaning!

  6. Excellent and I’m avoiding housework right now by looking at other entries in the photo challenge 🙂

  7. That’s definitely part of the culture. Yard sales would work well, too.


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  10. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture | Humbled Pie

  11. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture – Artist Luciano Neri – A Photografic Exhibition | Through the Eye of Bastet

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