My two young sons and I were a tight trio, especially after a long and difficult split with their father, and we were ready for an adventure. We left California, drove across the country, and moved into a ramshackle farmhouse deep in the woods of Vermont, three miles up an old logging road, with very few neighbors. Often, days would pass without us seeing another person, which suited us fine. The boys played under the trees, I cooked and gardened, read and knitted. We walked meandering paths and watched the shadows change, and our days began to take on a slow and deliberate rhythm.
The woods became the second parent, giving me reprieve when I could no longer entertain, giving lessons when I could no longer teach, giving solace when I could no longer soothe. I watched the boys catch fireflies in mason jars, fish in the creeks, solo venture ever farther up the hills, and make friends with the town locals. I watched them march in the small parades and eat apples from our trees. I watched them sit alone in the sunlight, sorting out the loss of their father and the ways of the world. Summer gave way to autumn, and autumn gave way to winter, and I fully embraced this life for our small family of three, convinced that the country was exactly what I needed and wanted for my kids. I was resolute, and my road seemed clear; I completely settled into the idea of this almost monastic parenting solitude.
Of course, my logging road diverged in those woods, as roads tend to do. An old friend from the city came to visit our hermitage, and we accidentally but effortlessly fell in love, long distance style. Over several months, as the boys studied this man and watched him care for me, the six hour drives between New York and Vermont became routine and more frequent. Eventually, there was a mutual recognition that we needed to be living in the same place, together. His work required that he stay in the city, while my deep sense of place kept me rooted to the country. After seemingly endless, near constant back and forth debates, I agreed to a move.
My children were reluctant, and bitter, even though they liked him. I read countless parenting manuals, trying to transition “correctly.” It didn’t really work. Our first weeks in New York were filled with out of character tantrums, vicious words and angry outbursts. The city felt too big for us, the apartment too small. On several occasions, I started packing up our things, convinced I had made an irrevocably bad decision.
But slowly, methodically, after fits and starts, we fell into a new rhythm, the rhythm of the city. The boys and Jim began to develop their own relationships, cautiously at first, and then with an excitement that felt pure and true. I watched them cook breakfast together, I watched them walk to the subway, I watched them build bunk beds for a shared room. I watched the boys seek Jim’s approval, listen to his advice, admire his ways. watched them stare in wonder at the skyscapers, the lights, the famous people, the day to day magic of Manhattan. And as summer became autumn, and autumn became winter, I watched our trio become a well-tuned four piece.
We still miss our woods. I pine for them, often, like a lost love. But I have begun to believe that the greatest gift I can now give my sons is not a specific way of life on a specific piece of land, but the way in which I choose to spend this short time that I have with them, wherever I am – with as much grace and compassion as I can find, with wide eyes and an honest heart, with a resolve towards happiness and love. And as I watch them embrace these ideals in their own days, as I watch them embrace this new person and this new place, I believe I am right.
Tara likes it simple, a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. She is usually either standing next to the stove stirring a stew, listening to records, reading a book, knitting a simple hat, or taking photographs while her two unschooled boys patiently stand by and wait for her to finish.