Life after NYC? I didn’t have to look too far.
I’ve lived in apartments Brooklyn for the last 20 years. For 16 of those, I was childless. Since then, I’ve had two children and my love affair with where I live waxes and wanes, as does everybody’s with whom I’ve ever had a conversation here.
In the spaces between working, caring for my kids, and playing music, I am often, somewhere on the sidelines of my brain, wondering about a place we might move to that won’t be as “difficult”. It will be naturally lush and wild, yet I won’t feel isolated. The winters won’t be unbearably long and gray, and I will not have to drive my car everywhere. This wonderland will be endowed with excellent public schools and rich in diverse, thoughtful, artistic, non-pretentious and funny people. It sure would be refreshing if it wasn’t full of only the privileged, too. Oh, and please let’s make it within two hours of the very city from which I wish to flee.
Though I ruminate on friends’ recommendations and pore over real estate sections and websites, I can’t seem to come up with any real life places that I have been convinced by or compelled to move to. As a matter of fact, the only places that meet my criteria – where I feel THAT FEELING – are in my children’s books.
I want to live in the places depicted in, yes, storybooks. And that said, the following are my top choices:
All the World (Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee)
I owe this to Marla Frazee’s fantastic illustrations of nature and community. I belong in this landscape (is it Hawaii?) and in this community of (make believe) families, complete with bounteous gardens, raw and undeveloped oceanside, a beautiful farmer’s market. I can smell the soup and fresh baked rolls in the town’s restaurant and I long to look out at the sea from their pier at night. I hear myself playing my guitar in their music-making gatherings. I admit I have a crush on one of the dads in the book, and I even like his wife okay. She seems nice, though I’m not sure we’d connect. But I’m married anyway, plus I’m no home-wrecker.
The Napping House (Audrey and Don Wood)
I cannot stop staring at the first page, the house in the rain. It reminds me of somewhere I’ve been, though I can’t seem to place it in any hard memory of my own. A quiet and almost – but not quite – melancholic feeling of wonder washes over me whenever I look at this picture, the spell that’s cast by arresting rain.
Before You Came (Written by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, Illustrated by David Diaz)
When I’m in the mood for a little psychedelia, I choose this one. The people are oddly a tad creepy, like those in a wax museum, but they’re colorful and the environment can’t be beat. Flowers, rivers and canoes, a sort of bitchy cat but a fantastic dog, and a guitar-playing father. They even have a hammock complete with sparkling lights where one can “read all day and sometimes into the night.” I must admit my mind immediately went to the mosquitos, but I figure when I start my new life I’ll get over that; after all, I’m currently still a city-slicker.
Spring is Here (Taro Gomi)
It’s the grass. It looks so lush. It’s the same landscape depicted throughout the seasons, and I definitely am most taken by “The quiet harvest arrives.” Heck, the girl is playing a recorder in that wheat field – we don’t do that in the city! (Nor would I ever in the country but that’s beside the point.) Gomi has another book, My Friends, in which a girl learns all kinds of emotional and physical life skills from a handful of wild and dangerous animals. Unlikely, yes – and definitely cool.
Pancakes For Breakfast (Tomie DePaola)
From this woman’s hairstyle to her lifestyle, I want it all. We wake up with her on a sunshiny winter day in what I think of as Vermont. No dialogue, but captivating illustrations of this happy widow’s simple desire to make a delicious breakfast. Her companions include her dog and cat, and in an effort to avoid being a spoiler, I’ll say the “action” of this wordless story takes her on all kinds of resourceful adventures just yards from her adorable, snow laden home. In this moment, I’ll say I could get used to her butter-churning, cow-milking way of life.
I am a Bunny (Ole Risom and Richard Scarry)
It begins, “I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.” This book, I’ve decided, most evokes my current existence; the hollow tree is not unlike the one bedroom apartment I share with my husband, two children and cat. Nicholas has more space actually, due to his solitary lifestyle, and of course a way better landscape with larger-than-life butterflies, dandelion seeds, gently floating leaves and fluffed-out snowflakes. Needless to say, I spend inordinate amounts of time with each page of this book, and I do believe I would make the lateral move to that tree for the view alone.
Of course, I want the Goodnight Moon room. Who doesn’t? It has occurred to me that this COULD POSSIBLY BE an apartment, since you never see anything but sky out that window. But let’s face it – it’s probably not, right?