After sixth grade I grew up at the end of a cul de sac where all the houses were a version of the same ranch style 3-4 bedroom. A few had three or four steps up to a split level second floor where all the doors were made out of that hollow wood that scraped along the carpeting when you opened them, and all the kitchens had electric ranges, garbage disposals and a back door with a screen. Every single house smelled like pets, potpourri or a combination of the two. I never realized any of this, that all the houses were basically the same, until I was in my 20s and had graduated from college. Until then I only noticed the differences. The way Bill whathisname's garage had a door that led directly into the house. The way the Cantrell's stairs went up to the right side of the living room while the Smith's went up to the left. The way the Miller's kept their kitchen closet filled with candy, tastykakes and huge cans of potato chips instead of brooms, wine and cans of cat food like we did.
The main thing I focused on was not how the houses were different from each other though, but how they were different from the ones I wanted to live in. I hated our house, hated our street, hated our neighborhood, hated the neighbors, hated the christmas lights and the halloween decorations, the flags and the lawn sprinklers and I hated the potpourri. I wish I could somehow justify all this hatred by telling you that I knew I needed a bigger world, that there was some horrible deathly suburban darkness that I recognized, but it wasn't that. I was just an angry, perpetually annoyed, brow furrowed, judgmental 13 year old who wanted only what I didn't have: I wanted to live in a big house in a fancy neighborhood, I wanted parents who wore glasses, were serious and went to Harvard, very rich and still married to each other. I wanted them to live on their side of the mansion and me on mine. Screw my brothers and sisters. They could all stay in a shed out back.