I love raising kids in Northern Westchester. Less traffic, more green, and neighbors whose homes I can see, but without the intimate knowledge of knowing what they eat for dinner.
But there are realities to my country life style that I didn’t anticipate. When we moved to Bedford, a friend scoffed as she watched my hip hop-karate-boxing combination meant to destroy any bug in my path.
“Bring it down a notch,” she admonished. “This is country living.”
These were insects on steroids, though, and up all night scratching, I wondered whether we had made the right decision when we abandoned the conveniences of the county seat and it’s proximity to all major highways and malls.
I haven’t quite learned to love my creepy crawly co-habitants, but they are certainly preferable to the other non-human residents of the area. Recently, my neighbors tried to earn bragging rights for who has had the most appalling animal pay their home a visit.
Apparently, the vole that ran around my house for several days before succumbing to a mouse trap had nothing on the flying squirrel or bat in the bedrooms of the neighbors.
“You didn’t know there were bats around here?” My neighbor was incredulous. I took only a little bit of solace in the fact that the flying squirrel had been trapped by a professional who makes his living escorting these cretins out of the town and 20 miles down county to Scarsdale, where I imagined it knocking on the door of my college roommate and asking for some grub.
Even the less intimidating animal-residents can cause one to pause. Deer, who outnumber humans in these parts, are beautiful, and elegant but sure cause a raucous.
In addition to the lush greenery on which they feast, deer can choose their meals from a wide variety of home gardens. They eat my flowers, and the tops of my tomato plants. They need sustenance, though, because they have made an Olympic sport out of dodging automobiles. Everyone knows someone who has hit a deer, nearly hit a deer, or hit something else while trying not to hit a deer.
If I can learn to steer clear of deer (literally) and calm my critter concerns, I could really get used to country living. Except for the country roads which have resulted in several flat tires. Who needs to pay for a ride at an amusement park when you can just drive 10 miles per hour over the bumpy back roads of Bedford?
Perhaps my favorite aspect of country life is the frequency with which we lose power. There is many a blackout caused by nothing more than a cool summer breeze. My friends from “down county” tease me mercilessly about my move up north. “There’s a rain drop, think you’re going to lose power?” One friend quips.
But then I am reminded of why I put up with the quirks of country living.
I love the rituals of small town life. My kids get excited for the local carnival each May, and again for the Fireman’s parade the last Friday of July. I love that the town still looks as it did in 1800, complete with a village green in the center of town.
And I love to watch my kids interact with their surroundings. The same creepy crawlers, who make me squirm in discomfort, delight my children. I once watched my daughter catch a firefly. She asked me to come outside and watch as she released it and a spark of green electrified the sky.
And each spring my kids giggle as they chase frogs, let inchworms crawl up their arms and build habitats for caterpillars, which grow into butterflies under their careful supervision.
But really, it is the raspberry bush in our backyard. The paranoid suburbanite in me researched to make sure I wasn’t about to consume poison, but these were the real deal. While I watched all three kids wonder out with paper cups and delicately pick the plumpest, reddest berries from the bush I understood why we would continue to share space with the peskiest of God’s creatures.
We live in a world where everything is at our fingertips. My kids are used to their berries coming in a plastic container from the supermarket. The idea that they can eat something growing from a bush in their yard is magical. We visit it regularly; we eat its fruit. It is seemingly simple, but not really. What else can my 4-year old and my 42-year old delight in with the same fervor?
And I expect that we will continue to discover and delight in more of what our natural surroundings have to offer. My kids will take the lead, and show me the world as I chase them around and try to apply insect repellant. And if the lights go out right before dinner, maybe we will head to the raspberry bush.