Nothing has given me greater joy than sharing stories, insights, and images with you. As you may have noticed I’ve dropped off in my postings in recent months and want to share what is going on. Here is my story.
Once upon a time, the promise of “skies the limit” was fundamental to the American Dream.
Now, something is fundamentally wrong. Chicken Little was right. The sky is falling.
And it has fallen close to home.
What is This?
Playing out against the 24/7 cacophony of political craziness and deep despair over the state of our country that has become our shared lives, my private life has mirrored some of the chaos. As our country and our democracy seemingly disintegrates before our eyes, in my own life the American Dream is crumbling beneath my feet.
A perfect storm of catastrophes has wreaked destruction on the familiar life I once lived. It is in upheaval.
A series of crises cascading simultaneously has led to the tragic loss of my home. A husband with undiagnosed cognitive challenges ravaged our finances. There has been little time to breathe.
I have now come full circle in living out the American dream.
Both the old one and the new reality. A homeowner in a leafy suburb for over 15 years my beautiful home is now tragically in foreclosure- the new end game of what was once the American dream.
The white picket fence that very embodiment of the Ameican Dream that once gracefully surrounded my immaculate, well cared for property now lies forlorn, some spokes splintered, and in need of a fresh coat of paint. It is the perfect metaphor for this fall from grace.
Ironically a home in suburbia once the very symbol of the attainable American dream was never really my dream. It was my parent’s post-war dream. I was and remain an urban creature at heart.
Suburbia was my parents promised land. It was where they wanted to live. It was, in fact, a place I wanted exodus from.
My parent’s dreams were decidedly not urban ones. Mine were. My model was more “That Girl” than June Cleaver. A single gal living out her dream in the big city, I happily sang along as Eva Gabor crooned on Green Acres “New York is where I’d rather be.”
Just as my parents had fled the city in the mid-1950s as it began to decline, I rushed headfirst into mid-1970’s N.Y.C. just about the time of its alleged demise. Despite President Ford’s snide comment telling the city to “Drop Dead,” it was anything but dying to me.
It nourished me in ways I craved. It was gritty, diverse, adventurous, a cornucopia of ever-changing experiences. There was no other place for a 20 something artist to be. It was heady. And affordable.
Long Island Bound
Yes, Long Island was never my promised land.
But, strangely enough in 2001, it did, in fact, become my home. Once more.
Suburbia 2.0 would be different.
I moved reluctantly, unsure in this strange land seemingly barren of culture and excitement, bereft of everything that was familiar to my urban soul. Being a non-driver would prove to be a challenge.
I created a lush paradise secluded from the rest of suburbia. Perhaps that was the very point. It became an oasis and a place of calm. As a collector, it allowed me the unlimited space I so sorely craved to house my vast collections under once roof.
To my surprise, I thrived. In my loneliness, I turned to my art as I always have.
A place I was so hesitant about living in, wormed its way into my heart. Deeply. It was my home. My sanctuary from all the tumult in the world. Now that very tumult permeates my home.
But battling on with my last bit o’ midcentury American can-do-optimism, the ending of this story might well tap into the other great American story of transformation.
The ability to reinvent yourself once again. Reinvention, in fact, may be the most American story of all
Now I will return to the city by default as much by desire. If I can. N.Y.C. has changed drastically in these past several years. Can I now return to this mecca of wealth that at times bears little resemblance to the city I lived in for decades?
I will find my way.
I’ve envisioned the American dream from both sides now.
For these past many years I’ve shared with you the American dream and the possibility of its attainment as presented in the media. With a broad brushstroke, these mid-century advertisements painted the perfect portrait of the American Dream.
Eagerly envisioning a future filled with homes and upward mobility, it heralded a time when the American dream was indeed within reach of most middle-class families and the achievement of the better life was fundamental to the American way.
It was what we all strived for; it was our birthright.
Now the core elements of the American dream are increasingly unaffordable for the majority.
From millennials saddled with staggering school debts and grim employment prospects to Baby Boomers unable to save for retirement, the fundamental elements of the American Dream -a living wage, retirement security, opportunity for one’s children to get ahead in life are now unreachable for all but the wealthiest.
Now as the American dream fades away for so many Americans, as the America of my youth becomes unrecognizable, I join the new middle class that very symbol of America’s post-war promise that is now living the flip side of of the New American Dream.
This is not the post-war promises my parents had hoped for me.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.