I'm sitting on the front porch, drinking coffee, on a beautiful June morning in Wisconsin. My son is napping in the bedroom I once shared with my sisters. I'm at the house I grew up in, the one Teddy will know as his Gramma's house. My home town is quiet; the sounds of lawn mowers and birds and the occasional dog bark drift through the humid summer air. Any time a car drives past or a neighbor strolls by I look up, wondering if it's someone I used to know. Growing up in this idyllic village in Wisconsin, population 1800 on a busy day, made me feel like I was wearing a too-small jacket that I would one day be able to shed. Now, I recognize how strange this is and how lucky I was to grow up in a place where everyone's backyard was my playground and that all the parents were able to praise or scold me. At the time, I disliked what I felt were judgements too easily passed upon those who didn't want to live in this retro sitcom fantasy complete with beautiful gardens and perfect children. I exclaimed that I got in trouble as a teen, but my mom reminded me that I got in "acceptable" trouble - sneaking out, drinking with appropriate boys, indulging in unimaginative high school make out sessions, getting average grades out of boredom.
I compare this setting to the landscape in which my son will grow up. We live in a city punctuated with bus traffic, strangers walking down the block, sirens and the occasional percussion of gun fire - it happens in any big city. While he likely won't know his kindergarten class as intimately as I knew mine through graduation, he will be exposed to a plethora of backgrounds, languages, and customs. He won't be allowed to run wild through the neighborhood or to be kept in line by another well-meaning parent, but instead he will take field trips to the Smithsonian as a normal activity. He won't know the thrill of leaving someplace that feels small to move to a fast-paced setting filled with the unknown. In fact, he might not like these visits to a serene village and he may find my home town too small for a born in the city kid. I hope that isn't the case, as I will, fleetingly, feel like I am depriving him from the safety of the known, of a lawn-filled childhood with "acceptable" trouble to be made.
But right now, sleeping in my old bedroom, he will have a little bit of the best of these worlds available to him, accessible by a short plane ride. And I can experience the overlooked beauty and comforts of the hometown I was desperate to outgrow.