It’s green here at Camp Grandma. Grandma’s house is surrounded on three sides by trees that look like children’s drawings: brown trunks topped with puffy green circles. Judging from the noise, each tree houses about a gazillion cicadas, which the boys and I have occasionally found on the ground, legs waving helplessly in the air. The boys are fascinated by the bugs but they don’t ever want to get too close–it’s pretty clear than a career in entomology is not in anyone’s future. Because I am a complete lily-livered coward when it comes to bugs, I totally encourage bug-scrutiny from afar, and I admit that we’ve been responsible for cicada death: flipping the bugs (using a very long stick) into the pond across the street from Grandma’s house.
Except for the cicadas, it’s quiet here, and so still you can hear the ducks flapping in the pond. We’ve had a few huge midwestern thunderstorms, which I just love: the air gets incredibly still and even the cicadas shut up for a minute or two; the sky gets sort of purplish gray and then the wind whips up, flipping the leaves to their silvery undersides–it’s like everything is holding its breath and then whap! lightning! and wham! thunder! Total drama. The picture at the head of this post is from the beginning of one such thunderstorm. Even though it looks like evening, it was in fact about 8 in the morning. After the rain, the air was clear; it smelled like earth and grass (and corn from the corn processing plant).
We come to visit my mom every summer and I love it: the quiet, the green, the fact that we do pretty much nothing other than walk to the pool and watch the kids play. Mom has all the suburban pleasures: a yard, a deck, a garage, an upstairs. Everyone has room to spread out and although the boys do their best to be the Bicker McBickersons, it’s harder for them to keep it up when one or the other of them can do that thing called GOING UPSTAIRS. There are lots of closets out here in flyover country, and an entire room dedicated to laundry. There is even–wait for it–a pantry.
Earlier this year, Husband and I were recruited by a large Midwestern university–a big-name place in a small post-industrial midwestern city, but not one of those “cool” midwestern cities like Madison, Ann Arbor, or Columbus. The offer was sort of tempting–a bit more money and the idea that we could have one of these houses with all this damn space–but ultimately, we said no. The schools for the boys were problematic (public schools with absolutely no art program–none. No music, no art, nada nothing zilch. It made NYC public schools look good, in comparison, and that’s saying something); the jobs themselves didn’t quite make sense; we’d be giving up a lot in New York… We felt bad about saying no to the nice midwestern people (and gosh almighty they are nice out here), but said no anyway, and so now here I am in flyover country, once again a visitor.
Mostly I am sure we made the right decision; New York at this point makes sense for us. We’ve lucked into two good public schools; we have amazing friends; good jobs. Furthermore, in a blind taste test our kids could distinguish Two Boots from Totonno’s from Postos from Patsy’s, and god knows that’s an important life skill. They can also hail a cab at ten paces; they are intimately acquainted with any number of museums; and they understand that the world is comprised of lots of different kinds of people.
As I know from my non-conservative mother, living in this conservative state (that briefly flirted with progressivism by going for Barack in the election), would be tough. And I don’t regret saying no to Large Midwestern University.
But as I sit here writing this, soaking in the stillness, listening to the sound of the cicadas and the tree frogs and the little creek that burbles behind the house, it’s hard to imagine resuming my regularly scheduled life in that loud, sweltering, cement-box of a city.
Clearly someone will need to buy me at least one cocktail to ease the pain of re-entry. Or a country house. Whichever.