This is a funny story. Or at least all of my friends always thought it was a funny story.
I grew up on Long Island. We had square blocks, with sidewalks, that we could walk or ride around. Everyone on our street took meticulous care of their 70 x 100 lot, mowing the lawn each Sunday and regularly pruning bushes and shrubs. Perfectly paved driveways separated one house from the next and squirrels were typically the only wild animal rummaging through our backyards. We took summer vacations to Maine and pumpkin picking trips to ‘upstate’ New York to see the real animals.
I remember telling my friends stories about our family trips. We didn’t take trips by plane; that was simply out of the question for a family of six. We drove in our blue station wagon with our feet hanging out the back window, and whenever we passed a farm or stray cow on our journey, we stopped.
That’s it. We just stopped.
We didn’t venture out to see the farm or purchase fresh produce. We weren’t interested in who owned the farm or if the owner sold his wares at a local store or farm market. We just stopped, right there on the side of the road, to look at his cows.
Now do you understand why my friends always laughed when I told them these stories?
Growing up, I didn’t think it was funny. I thought it was great! I loved seeing the cows and I loved that my father would stop the car so that we could take a long look at them. When the cows were laying down, my mother would tell us it meant rain. If they were up and about, there were clear skies ahead. Weather forecasting at its best.
Twenty years later, I moved myself and my own family 80 miles north – where the cows live. My oldest daughter was only one when we moved and when she turned two, she started a preschool program not far from our home. The road to her little school had a farm… with cows on it. Can you guess what I did?
We have lived here for nearly 10 years now and, most days, I still feel like a newcomer. There isn’t a forest or a farm in our backyard, but there’s enough open space to invite plenty of critters to travel through. There’s a groundhog living under my neighbor’s deck; her babies have wandered through our yard each year for the last two years. Last month, a stray turkey came wandering through all by himself. I’m not quite sure what happened to all of his friends, but my kids were fascinated by just that one on his own. My neighbor and I watched a red fox scurry by one morning at the bus stop, and my other neighbor even saw a bear one time. I’m not sorry I missed that one. And just last night, a family of deer stopped in our yard to pick at the bird feeder.
I thought that we would get used to it and I assumed my kids would be immune to it. After all, the squirrels in my backyard as a kid certainly weren’t the cows on our family trips. But, last night as that family of deer tiptoed through our yard, we all stopped. We stopped and we crowded around the window and we stared. We sat there quietly and we stared until the last one moved out of sight.
I told my kids that meant there were clear skies ahead.