The City Mouse and the Country Mouse

September 2, 2006

Yesterday was Jude’s second “transition” day of preschool. My husband pedaled him to school, where the class was preparing to leave on their semi-monthly trip to the bookstore downtown. Teachers, kids and DH lined up and boarded a crowded city bus. The impatient driver didn’t wait for the kids to be seated before gunning down the street, causing toddlers to fall to the floor and cry.

There were few seats left, most of them surrounding a dirty, beaten-up drunk man. The tiny kids were seated beside and across from him, and this ratcheted up his level of hostility. He began swearing loudly and causing a scene. The busdriver did nothing to diffuse the situation, so my husband stepped up and told the drunk in no uncertain terms that he needed to STFU and behave or he would personally escort him off the bus. That did the trick, and the guy promptly disembarked rather than tangle with my husband, whose nostrils (I imagine) were flaring with rage.

The kids enjoyed story time at Barnes and Noble, and the trip back was uneventful, but the experience prompted a reaction in me that is as unconscious as it is predictable: disgust with urbanity and the romanticizing of small town and rural life.

My mate and I both spent our early years in small towns in the midwest, and you would think that would immunize us from rose-colored visions. But on those days when the crackheads loiter in the park in front of our house, I reflexively dream of another time and place to raise my kid.

Of course, there can be violent, unpredictable people in small towns, too… rednecks and skinheads who get liquored up and go looking for trouble.

The dark side of human nature exists everywhere. I struggle with whether my task as a parent is to seek out safer places, or to model an even-keeled and reconciled approach to the human condition.

Jude recounted to me his trip to the bookstore: “Daddy scared that guy on the bus. He made him go away.”