We took the kids to the country this weekend and I learned something: I've got me some bona-fide city kids. The which is to say, we need more country time.
It wasn't like we went into the deep country or anything, just drove an hour up to the Bear Mountain area where my high school friend Miriam and her husband have a little house. Still, it had a screen door which as far as I can tell, legitimizes any country domicile. I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard that creeeak! of a screen door; makes me feel like I'm in a Eudora Welty novel.
What got the kids' attention was the diversity of bug life. Here in NYC we have roaches, flies, mosquitoes, ants and the occasional spider. In the spring you'll see butterflies every so often and the sight of them blows my kids' minds: "OH MY GOD IT'S A BUTTERFLY! LOOK!"
On Saturday, no sooner had the stepped out of the car then we were inundated with bugs. Thankfully, the kids didn't wimp out on me and get all bug-a-phobic: in fact, it was the opposite.
"WOW! Mommy! LOOK! It's a Gran' Daddy Longlegs!" Seconda gasped.
I don't know where she learned that term. Must be her Tennessee gene which afforded her the ability to identify various kinds of hopping insects.
"Can I pick it up?" she asked.
"Sure, I guess." I wouldn't know a Gran' Daddy Long Legs from a Venus Flytrap but it sounded friendly enough.
"Oooh! there's another!" shrieked Primo.
"And here's another one! And another!" Seconda chimed in.
"Yes, kids, I think the country is full of them."
In their investigations in the dirt they found all sorts of bugs, all of which were impossible for me to identify but which David determined were millipedes, beetles, roly polies and "potato bugs."
"Can I touch them?" Seconda asked.
"Yeah," I guessed, hoping none of the bugs in question were black widow spiders, "Knock yourself out."
Then came the worms.
In community gardens here in Brooklyn, the kids look for worms and we can spend an hour digging in the dirt and find one, maybe two. These worms are priceless. You'd think, from the jubilation which breaks out when one is spotted, that we've stumbled upon a nugget of gold.
As it turns out, in the country, there are worms everywhere. And not tiny, pathetic half-dead worms which barely a wiggle left in them; thick, beefy, nasty-as-all-hell-get-out, are-you-sure-that-isn't-a-snake? 3-inch-long worms. The kids were dumbfounded. In particular, Seconda.
"We need a way to COLLECT THEM!" she yelled. I knew she was already planning on bringing some back to Brooklyn, to repopulate the worm world here.
Miriam's husband brought her a coffee can to collect the worms. An actual tin Folger's coffee can with a plastic lid that we poked holes into.
"That is so old-school," I noted appreciatively.
Then he said, "Once you're done collecting, we can go fishing with me."
Now, I defy you to find any activity more country than fishing with worms in a tin can. I mean, I don't know from personal experience, but I've read a lot of books about this sort of thing and let me tell you, watching the kids drop the worms into that can, I felt like I was reading The Adventures of Tom Freaking Sawyer.
They did paddle out in the lake and catch fish (I stayed behind at the house while the baby slept) and afterwards, we all took a dip in the "swimming hole." You can not imagine my delight at being able to use that term. Being a city kid myself, I seriously fetishize this shit. That there were fish in the water in which we swam blew Seconda away; she spent a good fifteen minutes trying to catch one with her bare hands.
When we got home that night, the kids sacked out like a bunch of drunks, my dream come true. And I saw to David, "We need to get to the country more often."
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.