Isn’t that obvious by now?
Although we lived far away from any city or town, we were by no means the only family in the outskirts. Though most were cottagers who made only brief appearances once a year, there were a few “constant” families living among the wildlife.
But they were nothing like us.
There were the Hilfigers* - a rather uptight crew of five who had escaped life in the big city to settle in a lakefront mansion. At least, I thought it was a mansion. I had little to go on other than the fact that my house had one floor and theirs had two. Also, a mudroom. The Hilfiger father - a doctor – ran past our house and up and down our long country road every day, before dawn, at noon, after supper and when the sun went down. I know now that he was running to his mistress’ house in the nearest community, hours away by car. But at the time, I just thought he was really, really, fit. It now occurs to me that he probably wasn’t even a doctor, what with never going to work. The Hilfiger mother was a snob, by my family’s standards, and by that I mean that she never, ever talked to us, even though her daughter was my best friend (but only during school hours, on Tuesdays).
Then, there was the Lauren* Family. They lived near enough to us that on a really windy day, we could inhale their cigarette smoke. The four of them had very loud voices -- that carried. As a result, we always knew what they were having for supper, which child had misbehaved in school that day and who had a headache. Residing near them was exhausting.
Still, living where we did brought with it benefits.
For example: At the first sign of precipitation, all buses were pulled off the roads, mostly because Mr. Armani*, our snowplow driver, couldn't keep his rig on the road. Good heart, heavy foot. This meant that us country kids rarely attended school.
This too might be obvious by now.
However, living where no one else dared meant that we were slightly behind when it came to technological advances.
We had a telephone, but it was what was known as “a party line” which meant that in order to use it, we had to wait for Agnes de la Renta* who lived two rural routes over, to stop chatting with her friend Mabel Prada*. We had television, but only received two, sometimes three channels. All news. When we finally got a cable hookup, I didn’t sleep for a week. Until, someone chewed the line going into our house. It may have been mice, or the Lauren clan.
Because we had no prepackaged sources of entertainment, we country kids made our own fun. Entertainment out there was different than in the city, but it was readily available. Day, or night. Not unlike Mr. Hilfiger’s mistress.
Animal sightings were common, including that one time we all stood in amazement as a skunk moseyed in front of us with a soup can on his head.
Also, I had a pet squirrel, a pet raccoon, pet rabbits and pet frogs. And by this I mean I fed animals from our back deck until one day, when they all tried climbing up the screen door at the same time.
It was a bloodbath.
Power outages were typical, as were evening dinners made on a camp stove, toys made of sticks and buckets full of worms. And sometimes, if we were lucky, the local drunk, an ice fisherman named Versace*, would mistake our backyard for a toilet – always convinced our home was an uninhabited cottage. This was fun for the local kids and the raccoons - not so much for my parents.
Eventually though, things evened out when my father brought home our first home computer. It was the size of a refrigerator and could be programmed to display the word “hello” in white type on a black background.
|Not my house. Also, none of these people are my father.|
It was amazing and signaled the dawn of a very different world.
When I look at my 4-year-old daughter, I can’t imagine her growing up without computers, iPods, Netflix, mobile phones and indoor plumbing. Still, our recent move back to the country has given us a chance to show her that there is more to life than a dedicated telephone line.
Every night we watch the deer wander past our window and in the mornings, we fill the feeder and watch tiny birds fluttering about. Pet caterpillars are routine, rocks are playthings and a pile of dirt is the best toy any kid could ever ask for.
Sure, we also share our home with the likes of Max and Ruby, The Wonderpets and My Little Pony and sometimes, as I scan my kid’s bedroom, I shudder at the glut of purchased playthings. But on the whole, I like to think we are providing our girl with a healthy understanding of what’s important… Experiencing nature, playing make-believe and always – ALWAYS - keeping the raccoons separate from the rabbits.
*Names have been changed to those of famous fashion designers, because really, who wants to share this kind of personal crap with the world? Oh, no, wait.
This post has been edited and republished on Erica Ehm's Yummy Mummy Club with the title: Life as a Country Mouse: What I Learned Living Rurally