Most people put a lot of thought into the neighborhood where they settle down. They investigate schools and parks and local shopping and restaurants. They factor in travel time to and from work and how close the highway might be. I didn’t do any of those things.
When we moved to Saint Louis, there was only one choice for us. We are Jewish and orthodox. That means we observe all of the sabbath laws from the beginning of sunset on Friday to the end of sundown on Saturday night. We do not drive our cars, use our phones, watch TV, or go shopping. So, that means that whatever we do must be within walking distance.
We spend our time at the synagogue and enjoying meals with family friends. The best part is that almost all of my friends, and my children’s friends, live right down the block. They are always there when I need them. My children can walk outside and instantly find friends to play with. I know all the girls in my daughter’s class and most of their teachers. There is always someone we can borrow sugar from, always a neighbor we can ask to babysit, always someone who can give our child a ride to school.
University City filled all of those needs. There are four synagogues just blocks from my house. My daughter goes to school three blocks away. The local Schnucks carries kosher baked goods and fresh, ready-made kosher food.
I am fully aware that U City is famous for its museums and The Loop. I have heard about all the cute little restaurants and shops, but I have never been to any of them.
My U City, the neighborhood I know and love, consists of a tiny local park where we spend Saturday afternoons when the weather is nice. My U City is filled with friendly faces that I greet as I push my baby’s stroller on Friday night and Saturday on my way home from a delightful meal spent with friends. My U City is where the rabbi across the street helps shovel the snow around my car so I can get out. My U City is home to the synagogue where I pray and a place full of people who welcome each foster baby I bring in the exact same way they welcome one of our own.
My U City is a community filled with friends who have become family. People who were there when my marriage fell apart. People who check on me when too many days go by without them seeing me. It’s filled with women that will watch out for my children as if they are their own, knowing I will do the same for them. I may only know a very small part of it, but that small part is all that I need. It’s more than just a neighborhood; it is my home.