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Country Girl

Residents would complain about the dimly lit streets; I embraced the darkness

Like most children, I grew up with the story of Country Mouse and City Mouse. In this tale, City Mouse convinces Country Mouse to visit her in the city where life is so much more exciting.

Even as a child, I could never understand. How could City Mouse be so sure that life in the metropolis was superior? How could she not see the beauty in the simplicity of the countryside?

I grew up in a suburb-turning-town-turning-city in the Tri-State area. I still remember the tree-lined streets that crisscrossed the expanse I called home. I loved them, the trees, the green haven of summer, the heartrending loneliness of them cowering under the ice, quivering in the cold. I cried through every storm that cruelly slashed one of my cherished trees. I thrived in the spring, when my innards unfurled together with the blossoms budding on every tree.

Then change came, and with it, those wicked trucks that destroyed my dreams. I cried for days after the trees were gone, and while residents were happy with the more spacious boulevards and sidewalks, I yearned for the maple tree-lined streets, colored in wild hues when winter crept in.

Residents would complain about the dimly lit streets; I embraced the darkness, the sensation of being on your own on those remote roads, with only the moon and stars as confidantes. Then the darkness departed too, with streetlights lining every inch of my space, and suddenly, the night sky was nothing more than a murky black concealment of the cosmos.

Developments came. And multifamily homes. And suddenly, I no longer recognized the suburb of my youth. The graceful deer had gone. The acorn-grabbing squirrels became less plentiful as those acorn-giving trees were felled one by one. I even missed the skunks and their overpowering smell of the countryside.

We spent summers upstate, in silent surroundings, towering mountains surrounding us. They embraced me, those massive mountains, and if I strained my eyes, I could almost see them winking at me under the flora and flowing brooks. I relished those days, spent communing with the sun, the air, the quiet of just nature and me.

We’d buy vegetables in the farmer’s market, where every tomato was a work of art, and the farmers were so proud of their produce. We’d watch them milk the cows and collect the eggs.

I lived for those summers.

Then I got married, and we moved to Jerusalem, City of Light.

And it sure is. A city. And definitely of light.

And while the sanctity is splendid, creeping up on you unexpectedly, the Wall right there, the yeshivos and Erev Yom Tov masses, I need air, aloneness. I walk along the bustling streets, the hordes of humanity rushing in a never-ending current of urgency, and I feel suffocated by people, so many people.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 652)

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Tagged: Lifetakes