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I'm Erin.  Gardening addict, incurable maker, insatiable reader, closet author, chronicler of childhood, wanderer, wonderer.  I'm glad you've come to sit a while with me.

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9.y.o.-"I have three ant bites.  Can I use this stuff I found in the first aid kit on them?  It's called ant-acid." 

9.y.o.-"It would be awesome if we had a 3-d printer because then we could print anything.  Like...like a tiny little model of Angkor Wat!"

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Friday
Jul252014

country mouse, city mouse

The Upstate Shakespeare Festival's Antony and Cleopatra. Everybody died.

I grew up in a rural place.  Not on a farm, so much.  By the time I came along my parents had already burned out on growing a garden, even.  But in a rural setting, where the woods for a wide distance around were my playground.  I spent hours alone chasing the creek to its source halfway up the side of a mountain or building a boat out of an avocado shell to float down it.  I played Indians among the trees with my siblings and friends.  We spent autumn afternoons raking leaves off our huge yard and then burning the pile of leaves and sticks in the edge of the woods in the evening.

I knew where the columbines and trilliums grew in the woods, where the poison ivy was, where huckleberries and blackberries flourished.  I knew how to make a flower crown with nothing but flowers and grass, and which vines I could pull down off trees to make little wreaths.  I ran away to the woods when I got fed up with my family.  My Side of the Mountain was like a wish-fulfillment fantasy for me.

I thought that this was the kind of childhood that everyone had.  Further, I thought this was the kind of childhood everyone was supposed to have.  So when I began to have children, and we began to choose places to live, I began to try to recreate what I loved best about my childhood for children of my own. 

And reality, that old bugbear, said not so fast.

What I learned very quickly was that in order to raise your children in a bucolic countryside paradise, you have to have a) a job that lends itself to living rurally, b) a long commute or c) enough money to live on acreage close to the city.  And I married myself a software engineer.  While that doesn't necessarily mean one must work in a city, it seems to be where the jobs are.   

So, during the time we've been raising our family, there's been this tension: city or country?  How far into the country can we get and still see Daddy a reasonable amount of time?  How badly do we need what "the country" can offer us anyway?  What are we willing to give up in order to be closer to work?  These questions cut close to the core of what makes a family work, the time balance, the philosophy on raising children.  

Now we've come to the point where we're having to make this choice again.  I am an incorrigible country mouse, I'm afraid.  When we stand in houses on lots with no land, and I feel a little claustrophobic, I think two things.  First, I think, oh, you greedy woman.  This is simply the way people do things, and you are being high maintenance.  Second, I wonder whether raising my children in a place like I want, where they have all kinds of land to run around on, makes it less possible for them to enjoy living in places like these.  Am I perpetuating this cycle, and is that helpful or handicapping?

Two nights this week we've gone to downtown Greenville and enjoyed events at Falls Park.  We left the van in little alleyway parking lots and walked down Main Street.  We looked in the windows of shops and passed people sitting on restaurant patios enjoying evening in the city.  It was nice to be right there where things were happening, where there was evening entertainment that was educational and fun, and for a moment I wondered whether I could enjoy being a city mouse.  I could walk to everything, have everyone and everything close, choose from a million different options of anything I needed or wanted.

I would love to tie this up and say that I have this one figured out, but I don't.  Fortunately, this time, "country living" isn't as far from work as it has been.  There's not such a devil's choice to be made.  And yet a choice must be made, because we can only live in between for so long.  The strain begins to tell on all of us, and we have to pick a place and begin to grow roots again.  So what would you do?  I hear the siren call of the city, but I know the country's quiet comfort too.  

Are you a country mouse or a city mouse?

~E~

Reader Comments (10)

Bother, I'm for country all the way and I married a software developer too! He said "where should we go have an adventure?" and I said "How about Maine!?". No jobs. The beautiful, remote places aren't tech-y. Which is to their credit!

On the other hand, enjoy surroundings vs. seeing husband/father=Most Difficult Tension.

We found a compromise which, as my husband defines it, usually makes no one happy. ;) But, we're reasonably happy. Though I still dream of all of us living more happily on a small farm somewhere and my husband...being a farmer. (*mentions word 'farmer', sees husband stiffen*)

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTara

Tara, I've been laughing about this all morning. "Mentions word 'farmer', sees husband stiffen" is precisely how things go around here. He told me, before we were married, that he didn't want to be a farmer, and I saw no reason why it would ever be an issue. My farming tendencies hadn't yet reared their heads, but now he points back to that and throws up his hands. Ah, man, why did I not see this coming??

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermotherbird

Ok this is so ironic that you posted this and I didn't see it until now, when I had JUST posted my newest blog post. Which was born out of my extreme need for, if not "country," then enough space. I feel like we have an odd balance of what we need (with only a 10 minute commute, which after 5 years @ 30 min and 5 year @ 45 min feels amazing for all concerned) because of the unusual situation of our backyard. I'm sure it might not be as great if we still had young kids at home, but ours (14 in a week) really like being in a neighborhood with pools & tennis and also having schools (that they hardly go to, lol) close.

So are you guys going to rent for a while or just buy?

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

Ah, Cindy, all that is up in the air right now. Getting it worked out as we speak, though!

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermotherbird

I'm a city mouse. I was telling my cousin this morning that I could never live in the suburbs, because I need to be able to walk everywhere. I could maybe settle for a smaller city than mine, but I dislike bugs and long drives to get anywhere and lack of neat ethnic restaurants. Firmly in the city camp.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKyra

You know, I can totally see that point of view. I think for a long time I couldn't, but I'm beginning to get it. I wonder whether I would get used to all the people, though. That's my one worry. That I'd realize I really couldn't handle all the people and not have any way to change my situation. Hm. I can see that going both ways, and someone from the city wondering how on earth you get used to being alone so much. Interesting thinks, here.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermotherbird

I grew up in the country. At least, until late childhood, then we moved into the city. So i went from having acres plural to muck about on, to having a city house with a postage stamp sized yard. Really, no yard to speak of. No more garden, no barns, no orchard, no green space ..... That was really hard for me, as a kid.

An a young adult, i fantasized about country living once more, but stayed, through circumstance, firmly in the city. Years passed. Kids arrived. Life changed and then changed again. Just when i reached the point of being able and ready to pull the kids and myself up and out and go off on an adventure -- move to the country or move right out of the country -- ah well. The brain tumor.

These days I tend to look at everything, including these sorts of ponderings, through the lens of disability. Which is me, not you of course, :-) But now when I think of country living, i cringe. Being primarily housebound, not being able to drive, just me and a couple of kids? Nope. And you know? It's sad actually, now I think of it. I definitely feel a little wistful. Country living is right out of the question until, who knows, my daughter is grow and solvent and maybe we could do it then .... She'd love that.

July 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEllie

I was raised in the suburbs. We had a garden (sometimes) and I spent my afternoons riding bikes in the street and skipping rocks in the creek. The main thing I would do to improve our current surroundings would be a sidewalk from the schools (past my house) down to the Publix. We're definitely not country enough to not get a little "hit by cars" if we walk in the street. I don't think I'll ever be a true city mouse, but I'm certainly grateful that Kevin has been able to work from home a little more often lately. :-)

July 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Ellie, I wonder what happens to the things we long to do but never get to do. Surely there's a place for them, an envelope full of those things that we'll get to do after we die, even if just for a few minutes before we get on with whatever we're supposed to be doing then. I like to think that mine aren't especially grandiose, which makes it more likely that I'll eventually get them, but that argument doesn't really seem to hold water, does it? Thank you for sharing your longings. They sound a lot like my own.

Amy-hello! AH, wouldn't him working from home make a world of difference no matter where we lived! We had that in GA and it was lovely. I wonder whether being raised in the suburbs makes one more able to thrive there, instead of having to live there and always wishing one were somewhere else? Or maybe that's simply personal temperament and choice. So much is choice, after all.

July 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermotherbird

There was a very long (well, maybe a mile?) piece of waste land a few blocks from my house growing up, and I spent a lot of time there, from about age eight to age ten. It was wild, and we called it The Field, and Mum used to walk the dog there. There was a lower, marshy spot with cattails and frogs, and pollywogs in the spring. And I lived a short bike ride from Lake Ontario, so from eight on a friend and I would go down to the beach and explore and look for sea (lake?) glass. I had a lot of time out in nature, and I liked it, but I like the bustle of a city in spite of my introversion.

I've also had four children in four years, and so I've effectively destroyed any peace and quiet at home. :) I escape into books for quiet.

August 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKyra

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