Vegas, baby. Land of family values.
I’m being serious.
I grew up in Las Vegas and am what our community refers to as a “Local” in a transient town.
A real one.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “Well, I’ve lived in Vegas for ten years so I’m pretty much a local.”
No, you are not and that’s ok. We love and accept you anyway. We hope you will stay and love this town as much as we do, but let’s be clear – being a “Local” is reserved for us few hundred thousand born and bred in this dusty desert town. We remember when the strip skyline was only a fraction of the glittering spectacle it is today.
My conservative Catholic family moved to Las Vegas in the early 1950s when the booming population boasted a whopping 50,000 people – and growing (and boy did it grow). I went to the same Catholic elementary and high school as my parents. I also grew up in the same neighborhood my parents did and we lived down the street from my grandparents. I am now married and raising my 2.2 kids in the very same neighborhood, less than a mile away from my parents.
Clearly I didn’t stray far.
Growing up I didn’t realize how amazing my town was. We were in awe of the tens of thousands of palm trees shipped into town by the truck load that would engulf the Mirage. We watched the Stratosphere being built from my high school biology class window. We read the endless casting calls for Wizard of Oz characters who would open the rebuilt MGM Grand. These things were not unusual because Las Vegas is my home. It is where my entire family lived; two parents who did not work in a casino, who gave me high school curfews and required I go to church on Sundays. They said I could ride my bike until the street lights came on at night.
I consider myself lucky in that I went out of state to attend college. At 18 I left my small city and headed to the Midwest. I am pretty quick to shoot down those Vegas naysayers who argue you can’t raise a family in Vegas. I do admit I noticed a few unique differences once I was away. I had no idea what “Last Call” or “Closing Time” meant (despite Semi Sonic’s popular one-hit radio wonder). I was appalled to learn that at 1 a.m. every single bar in the state was forced to close and there was such a thing as an open container law, Really? When you turn 21 you can’t walk around the street and drink a beer? Weird.
Or that there was not a bevy of 24 hour restaurants ready to serve up a really good breakfast/steak and potato dinner/nacho platter whenever my appetite demanded,You mean to tell me there is not one restaurant in this midwestern town where I can chow down on jumbo shrimp cocktail and apple pie at 2 o’clock in the morning?
After seven years away experiencing college and early twenty-something career life in new cities, something happened. I grew up, I got married and in crept the soul sweeping feeling that there is no place like home.
If home is where the heart is, then my home and heart is in sin city.
But here’s the thing – I’m raising my children here and let me tell you about my city from the eyes of a Vegas baby turned parent.
Our community is tight knit. We work together, our parents work together and our grandparents worked together too. We are neighbors. We give back to our community and we are raising healthy families together. Our streets are flooded with carpooling parents headed to soccer practices and piano lessons. We are protective of each other and probably because of all of the uninformed speculation from outsiders of what Vegas must be like to live. It’s usually not too nice nor is it accurate. We welcome anyone who decides to roll the dice, move here and embrace our town and work as hard as we have to make it a great place to live with open arms.
While I may not let my kids ride their bikes in the neighborhood until the street lights come on like I used to, ummm because let’s be honest, do any of us let our kids do that anymore before the age of 12?, I do insist they go to church on Sundays and I will enforce ridiculously early curfews when they get to high school. I will probably GPS the hell out of their phones, cars, and I’m pretty much hoping that by the time they are teenagers I’ll be able to microchip them like we did the dog.
Just like my other parent friends in their respective towns raising well-adjusted, happy families.
My town just has a little more glitter.