Thursday, September 4, 2014

City Girl? Country Girl!

I grew up in a cul-de-sac in a quiet, suburban neighborhood. In the summer I walked to the video store, library, and one of the local pizzerias. My husband says I had a "Leave It to Beaver" childhood. And while I think that description is a little too idyllic, it was a great way to grow up.

Only, I didn't think so at the time.

As teenagers my friends and I often lamented there wasn't enough to do. It was always the same activities: movies, mini-golf, mall, hang out at someone's house. "We're bored!" we would whine. "This town is so boring!" we would tell our parents. We couldn't wait to live somewhere more exciting.

And for me, that place was The City.

(And for those of you outside the NY-NJ-CT area, "The City" is New York City.)

It started out as fantasy. I was dating my husband at the time. He was working in The City and I was working across the river in Jersey City. I would hop a PATH train after work to meet up with him. We would walk the neighborhood where we had plans and talk about what it would be like to live in The City. The relationship became more serious and once we became engaged we started flirting with the idea of city living more. We would visit real estate websites and see what was available for rent. After we were married the search for a home to buy became more serious. Every Sunday we would pour through the real estate section, scouring the listings for neighborhoods of interest and open houses.

During this time we were renting our apartment on the second floor of a two-family home in Clifton, New Jersey. Clifton is the 11th largest city in the state. We lived right "in town," a block in from a main road. And while it was convenient with so much within walking distance, the homes were also close together and the traffic on the main road could be heavy at times. It felt crowded and noisier than the neighborhood I grew up in and found boring as a teen. And after a day of commuting and working in Jersey City, the 2nd most populous city in the state, I found out something about city living: I really didn't care for it.

So our search for our new home changed focus towards suburban neighborhoods. Open house after open house we would come back to the apartment feeling dejected. It was 2005, about a year, maybe less, before the housing bubble burst. The houses and properties were small with overinflated prices. However, the further away from The City we expanded our search the larger the houses became. (Ceiling height was an important factor, given the fact my husband is 6'7" tall.) They also came with more property and a lower sticker price. The next thing I knew, we had crossed the state line and we're looking in Pennsylvania.

It was all new and exciting. We would be buying our house together. It was double the house for half the price compared with wiat we were seeing in Jersey. Our family would be about an hour away, but that was likely to happen even if we stayed in Jersey. Really, it was a no brainer.

So in July 2005 we closed and by the end of August we were moved into our house in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. My husband was commuting into The City still, and I was working from home part-time.

And it was ... an adjustment.

There was no Starbucks (we have one now), no Barnes and Noble, and no real mall to speak of. (It's a small shopping center by Jersey standards.) I got a library card and divvied up the errands so I had something to do every day. I started watching "30-Minute Meals" and teaching myself to cook. I tried to keep myself busy and our dog, Bugsy, was a wonderful companion.

But still, I was lonely.

I was out of my element.

I needed to get to know my neighborhood better.

I resumed the dancing lessons of my youth, finding a local studio near my home. I started shopping at more local business. And in the spring, I started visiting my local farmers market. It was a slow process, but the more I became acquainted with the area, the more I fell in love with it. And back in 2005 I never thought I would say this, but now, I don't think I could go back to city living. I don't think I was meant for city living.

I'm a country girl.

Here's a story that really illustrates that. One of the things I love most about living here are the cool summer nights. Especially when August arrives and the nighttime temperature can drop into the low 50s, perfect sleeping weather. But when you throw open the windows you don't just let in the cool, mountain air. You also let in all the sounds of nature.

Remember My Cousin Vinny? Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei's characters are staying at the DA's cabin in the woods. An owl is screeching and Joe comes out in his underwear and high tops, gun blazing.

It felt a little like that.

The tree frogs. Oh, the tree frogs! So small, yet collectively so loud. They would keep me up at night. And I remember one night we heard screeching. Lying in bed my husband and I debated calling the cops, but ultimately decided against it, realizing there was a timing to it that made it unhuman-like. Good thing. The next day a neighbor explained what we hard was a female bobcat.

Bobcat. We didn't get too many of those in Clifton.

I didn't realize it until the summer of 2007, but those nocturnal noises slowly became my lullaby. I was in Manhattan for a business meeting. Because of the timing and the fact that I lived in the Poconos, I stayed at the hotel where the meeting was being held the night before. In midtown.

Oh my goodness, the noise!

Sure, my room was up on the 30-something floor, but it wasn't up too high for the sirens and traffic and construction sounds to reach. I tossed and turned all night. Who is up at 3:00 in the morning? New Yorkers, apparently. They don't call it The City That Never Sleeps for nothing! That night I swore to myself that I would never complain about the frogs again.

And I haven't.

Except when one ended up in my kitchen.

But that's a story for another day. :-)

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