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In This Family We Maintain The Ways Of The Old Suburb

If there is one constant in life, it is change. Everyone knows this, yet it comes so quickly that it can swallow you up and sweep you away without warning. But just as change can breathe new life, so too can it destroy all that we hold dear. I have seen it many times before, and I see it now in my own children. We must not sacrifice who we are. We must be vigilant. We must be strong.

Come, sit by the electric fireplace and let me tell you the ways of the old suburb.

Long ago, in the Time Before the Best Buy, before the interchange expanded to six lanes and brought travelers and their foreign customs from Piedmont and Parkwood and Oak Grove, in that time before, there were park-and-rides as far as the eye could see and only two traffic circles. Now there are things called Game Stops and massive sprawling Wawas that tempt and delight with warm fluorescence and the promise of snacks and convenience.

There is nothing wrong with convenience, my children—indeed, it is the reason our ancestors trekked to Pine Bluffs from a place far east of here, past Route 9 and four more exits beyond, lo so many years ago in 1987.

But how far is too far? Will this world around us become so convenient that we neglect the very fabric of our souls and DVR How I Met Your Mother to watch "when it's convenient" rather than together, Monday night, over microwaveable McCain Ellio's pepperoni pizza, as we have since time immemorial?

That is far too expensive a price to pay.

Perhaps you don't fully understand the gravity of my words. You see, if we don't work to preserve these traditions, we lose what makes us who we are. The Whitmans go to the Salty Dog's Miniature Golf Course and Batting Cages. They shop at the Super Wal-Mart on 119, not the one on Eastside Drive, and they are not enticed by the frappucinos at the Starbucks that just opened, because Oreo Blizzards from Dairy Queen are our lifeblood.

Look around you. Good things abound! It is the land of plenty of places to eat and shop, and it has given us much. The women of this family have spent countless hours at the local Safeway searching for fresh cereal and fish sticks while the men sat in traffic and listened to "Mike and Manny in the Morning." Just as our parents did before us, and as you will continue to do in the future, no matter how prevalent satellite radio becomes, or how many new Whole Foods sprout up like weeds where the Jo-Ann Fabric once was.

We are Whitmans, my child. Our needs are meager. Grant us a Domino's pizza and a two-liter of Coke and we will make do. We do not ask for more than we require.

Leave the ornate Hess stations that also serve Krispy Kreme doughnuts and make fancy displays of Fourth of July fireworks to those who dwell in Hillcrest Manner or Lincoln Heights. If not, we are destined to wander through Target and Costco, like ships without mooring. Like orphans without a name or identity or an Osco Drug discount card.

Now, let us break bread together with our elders, Nana and Grandpop, at Ruby Tuesday. For it is two-for-one night, and I hunger for a Bison Bacon Cheeseburger.

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