Chicken Fried Vogue

For 15 years and most of her adult life, Bubblez lived in the suburbs of a major metropolitan city. She enjoyed taking her children to museums, parks, and dates at Starbucks. Then Bubblez moved to the country and her En Vogue attitude got chicken fried. Her yard is a park where the neighbor's rooster won't stop crowing, Starbucks is almost an hour away, and her large collection of fancy shoes is worthless. But, living in the acres of green has presented more opportunities for living "green" as Bubblez travels the path toward self-sufficiency (and bitches ((and prays)) along the way).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How A Suburban Housewife Landed In The Country

My parents were seventeen years old when I was born. They were married in October while Mom was still only sixteen. It was 1972, during the Vietnam conflict. My dad had enlisted in the Marine Corp and was home on a three day leave. At that time, the state required a one month waiting period after applying for a marriage license, but given the political circumstances of the time, that waiting period was waived. Mom and Dad grabbed a couple of friends off the street and went straight to the church, and soon after that, my dad returned to active duty. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  I was born the following March, right here, in Country Song.


Mom and I spent the next year living on my grandparents farm. Mom went to school during the day and worked at night. I had a babysitter who kept me when Grandma couldn't fill in the gaps. A few months after my first birthday, Mom attended her graduation commencement exercises, drove back to the farm, and started packing. I was curled up in a pink blanket, asleep in Grandma's arms when mom finished loading the car that night. Mom picked me up and laid me on the back seat, and Grandma watched both of her babies drive away. We were going to North Carolina to be with my dad.

Marine Corp Birthday Ball 1974

Time passed and the conflict ended. Dad loved the military, but decided not to reenlist. He wanted to spend time with his young daughter. My parents moved back home to Country Song. They found jobs and a place to live in town. I spent weekends and school vacations visiting Grandma and Grandpa on the farm. I had my own room in what had been my mother's room before we left. Sometimes, one of my many cousins or my little sister was there to share it, but mostly, it was mine.

When I was younger, I used that room only for sleeping, and spent the rest of the day driving Grandma crazy with my non-stop, little girl chatter until Grandpa would take me outside and walk me around the farm teaching me things about the various plants and animals that were living there. I adored my Grandpa. He was strong and kind, a World War II vet who loved to tell old stories from his life. I never saw him drink. He was firm in his beliefs, but not especially argumentative, and he would happily strike up a conversation with anyone who looked his way.

As I entered my teen years, I would lay in my attic bedroom, looking wistfully out the window at the big pear tree in the yard and the fields beyond it, daydreaming, and listening to Bruce Springsteen on my boom box.  Eventually, the time came for me to walk across that same high school platform that my mother had, before me, and go off to make my way in the world.

I moved to another, slightly larger town, to work on my bachelors degree. While there, I met my soon to be husband. We got engaged and I followed him to the Pacific coast where he had been accepted to grad school. We were married the following spring. We found jobs and a place to live, but we were both out of our element in the Pacific northwest (he was from New York), and we longed to be somewhere else that would suit us better. Then, one magical day, he got offered a job in Minneapolis, our new home; metropolitan enough for him, midwestern enough for me.

We found a cute little apartment, and I gained employment with a custom furniture shop helping wealthy individuals decorate their homes. A couple of years later, Teenie was born and we bought a nearly new house out in the suburbs. It was a great neighborhood for a family. We were happy, there.

When Teenie came along, the hours I spent working as a decorator didn't suit me. Also, I hated leaving my infant daughter at one of those giant daycare facilities where I didn't feel she was getting the attention she needed. One day, after work, I waltzed into Barnes and Noble and left for home with a new job. I worked nights and weekends and was with Teenie during the day. When Sheldon got home from work, I'd hand her off like I was passing a football, and run. My paychecks were significantly smaller, but since we weren't paying out the ear for daycare, it worked. A couple more years passed and we found that we were expecting, again. By this time, Shel had moved up the corporate ladder far enough that we could afford for me to quit working, and I became a stay at home mom "housewife". I always swore I'd never do that, but of course, that was before I had children.

Nikpod was born, and 22 months later, Moo arrived: two darling boys as different from each other as night is from day. We had enrolled Teenie in kindergarten at a private school, and ultimately ended up having problems that, between these three kids, took us in and out of three different private schools before finding our niche with homeschooling. Minneapolis was a great place to homeschool. It was super common, so a lot of places catered to it. There were daytime gym and swim classes at the YMCA, classes at the dance studio, the gymnastics studio, classes darn near everywhere that were designed specifically for home educated children. The public library system was amazing. There were museums and aquariums and zoos and orchestras and historical sites to visit. It was awesome. We soaked all of that in and added another baby to the family; a sweet little girl we called Boots.

Grandpa with baby Nik

When Bootsie was just past her first birthday, there was a disturbance in the force.  My Grandpa passed away. It happened somewhat suddenly. One day, he was sick. About two weeks later, he was dead. I had spent almost every day during those two weeks talking to my mom on the phone listening to her updates on Grandpa's well being. I hated that I wasn't there. Mom would try to be positive about Grandpa's condition when she talked to me, but there were little things, he doesn't eat, he doesn't sleep, that tipped me off to the truth. Every day, I debated whether or not I should jump in the car and drive the twelve hours to see him, but there was no terminal diagnosis and no reason to think that he wouldn't improve. It wasn't practical to leave four little kids at home if I didn't really need to be away. Ah, regrets. He never even got to meet my little Boots.

The call came from my sister early one Saturday morning. I cussed and hung up. "We have to leave," I said, almost commanding it to Sheldon as I raised myself from the bed and started to pack. Within two hours, the six of us were on the road. Before night fell, I was sitting in my mother's kitchen.

The funeral home was packed with people. It seemed like Grandpa was friends with everyone in town besides having spawned four generations of children. Our procession of cars heading to the cemetery stretched two miles long. When the burial was over, our whole, huge, family lingered around, not wanting to say goodbye.

Someone had the idea to grab a bucket of chicken and head over to the local park. Most everyone followed suit. Poor KFC was raided that day and pretty much sold out. We sat in the park, reminiscing, laughing, and crying. And the honesty began to fly. Grandma let loose on one of my older cousins, the semi-secret, that Grandpa thought my cousin was a real jerk for not going and getting his heart checked out, and had said just that while lying in the hospital the week before. Another cousin was telling of her re-dedication to Christianity, and expressing genuine concern over whether or not various people were going to be with her in Heaven, talking to them, and asking them what they believe. Of course, everyone was reaffirming their love for everyone else. And then, it was my turn.

As I hugged one of my close cousins, goodbye, one who had shared with me much of of my childhood, playing hide and seek in Grandpa's barn or taking long walks through the fields and into the woods, he looked me square in the eye, and said, "It's time to come home."

my cousin and I in Grandma's kitchen

Standing in that moment, I knew he was right, and although I loved my life in Suburbia with choices of schools and shopping plazas, parks and museums, my heart belonged in Country Song.

I spent the next six months driving back and forth every few weeks to help Mom and Grandma as much as I could. The farm had to be sold. Grandma needed to find a new home. There was much to do. I'd leave on Friday afternoons when Shel got home from work, drive the long drive, spend Saturday night, and drive back to Suburbia on Sunday. I did this on the premise that they needed me, but really, I needed them.

My trips would slow down during the winter months because I didn't feel safe alone on icy roads, and then pick back up in the spring. I did this driving back and forth routine for four years while Shel and I debated the ups and downs of moving. The kids had friends. They were involved in great programs: a Christian based dance school for the girls, a boy's gymnastics team for Moo, and Nik was getting closer and closer to earning his black belt. We were near enough to city proper to have memberships at the Children's museum, the aquarium, and the zoo, but far enough out to randomly see otters playing or a beautiful white egret standing in a pond, or a bald eagle resting in a tree. Shel had never lived in a rural town, and I had only lived there as a child. The prospect of moving to Country Song was scary.

I was torn, unhappy, and growing bitter. I blamed Sheldon, and our little family was slowly, steadily, beginning to pull apart. Thankfully, Shel recognized it. He had an amazing job making good money, and he was highly specialized. Neither of us believed at all that he would find a job in Country Song. Jobs were scarce there at it was, as it is. He started putting the word out that he was looking for something new, maybe in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Detroit, or Chicago. He had one interview in Ohio, but it wasn't a good fit, and nothing much else was turning up.

Then, it happened. Shel got a call from two different recruiters for the same position, a prestigious senior position, not twenty miles outside of Country Song. They flew him in for an interview and a few days later offered to move us all to Indiana. We were dumbstruck and thankful. It was surely an act of God. Shel moved ahead of the rest of us and stayed with my parents, bless his soul, while he started his new job. I started packing and getting the house in Suburbia ready for sale. Shel found a house for us to rent in Country Song, and we all moved in there together while we searched for a place we could buy. A year later, an opportunity presented itself to purchase a 100 year old house with four acres in the country, just outside of Country Song, and less than two miles from the house I was raised in.

old house

new house

I am constantly amazed that I am living where I am. Last fall, my Grandma, at 92, fell ill with pneumonia and I was here to help during her recovery. My cousin needed gall bladder surgery, and I was here for her, too. My sister was struck with appendicitis and I was able to sit with her overnight in the hospital. I was with my parents at a hospital in Indianapolis when a doctor told my dad that he needed open heart surgery, and able to stay with mom at the hotel there while it happened. I've been here for birthday parties, graduations, and new babies, and the grandaddy of them all?

Last weekend, we hosted a surprise anniversary party for my parents. 40 years!

Forty years ago, yesterday, two teenage kids with a baby inside stood in a church not knowing what the world had in store for them or for the future of their child. Not knowing, that they'd both end up living in the same rural landscape as their own parents. Not knowing that their first grandchild would be born four states away but come back to walk, like her mother, and her mother before her, across the same graduation platform in the same little school, for Teenie decided on public school this year and just started as a freshman.

I've got to tell you, though. Living rural as an adult is a lot different from living rural as a child. When you're a child, you spend your days taking long walks in the sun and marveling at the world around you. As an adult, it's much harder. I still wonder if moving was worth the trade off where the kids are concerned. Options for activities are so limited. Simple tasks like buying groceries can take a whole day because the stores aren't nearby. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to the snakes and giant spiders that occasionally present themselves, even though I put on a pretty good show of acting nonchalant and tough. Oh and mowing! Holy crap, mowing takes a whole weekend. There are cracks in the plaster that need to be filled, and the floors are in need of finishing. I have plants that are dying because I haven't found taken the time to plant them, and my 500 some pins on Pinterest? Yeah. Not happening. But, I love it. I do. I love it all.

And thus ends the tale of how a little country girl grew up to become a suburban housewife who moved back to the country. 

the street I grew up on

Downtown Country Song welcomes home a soldier injured in combat, 2012

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