Like most kids, ours is especially gifted at ferreting out the conversations Peter and I want to keep private. While he has selective hearing about getting up in the morning, what time to come home, did he take his vitamin, brush his teeth, or do his homework, he displays a hearing ability that convinces us he can hear the neighbor’s grass grow, such as when Peter and I huddle in the pantry and whisper. We’d hear Henry call down from upstairs, “What? Who’s having an affair? What does rehab mean? And don’t even try to slip any grated carrots into the meatloaf. I can tell.” We learned that if we wanted to keep Henry in the dark, we were better off texting, emailing or meeting up for coffee to talk about our gossip and secrets in public. So, we’ve been surprised that Henry hasn’t said a word to us over the last week since we’ve openly been talking about Peter’s nationwide job search while Henry lurks around. However, last night Henry reached a breaking point and confronted us when he heard us discussing Wichita. Henry and I have concerns about Wichita. His may seem more rational, but really, they’re shortsighted. It’s not Wichita itself so much as its location. Wichita seems like a cool city, in fact, and we’d have a great time there.
Like any teen, Henry doesn’t want to leave his friends, family and, admittedly, sweet town. It’s a great town. Living in Guilford is like living in a Norman Rockwell painting. Situated on Long Island Sound, Guilford has a beautiful town green surrounded by a historical district of homes and buildings dating from the mid-seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Our town is devoted to the education and care of our children, cares deeply for the preservation of our natural resources, and we have an astonishing high rate of participation in town governance. It’s a fifteen-minute drive away from New Haven, only an hour and a half commute from New York, and three hours away from Boston. I’m not all that thrilled to leave, either. I’ve got my wish list of cities and regions I’d like to move to, including and not limited to Paris, Cinque Terre, Nice, Charleston, NC, possibly the west coast of Oregon (I’ve never been there, but I suspect it’s amazing), Marble Head, or just back to New Haven. But Wichita gives me pause because it’s south of Pennsylvania.
There is a hierarchy of considerations I mull over when Peter mentions moving, and it generally seems to play out this way:
- Insect life
- Access to water
- Prosecutorial compassion
- How it treats minorities & my myriad political concerns
- 4 and 5 are interchangeable
But what about climate? Climate, in my mind, has everything to do with insect life and why I’m preoccupied with the latitude line that runs roughly along the southern border of Pennsylvania. And, that is a generous border in my estimation because from what my friend, Keely, tells me, Pennsylvania has lots of the things I want to avoid and why Wichita initially induces plenty of panic in me: spiders, and of secondary concern, venomous snakes. While I typically don’t have a fear of snakes, I suspect if I had to deal with a fat rattler, I’d phobia-jump. In my experience, the warmer the climate, the more south I go, the more likely I am to encounter enormous, terrifying spiders. This also brings up other concerns, like scorpions, roaches and ants. And that leads to the dangerous use of chemicals.
Wichita thrives on the Arkansas River, which is water but not the kind of water I have in mind. And, what lives near and in rivers? Spiders and snakes. Without going into too much boring detail, I’m drawn to open water, and the idea of not living nearby an ocean feels fracturing. Keeping up with people is possible, ordering certain foods and books over the internet may take a little longer, but it’s impossible to access the ocean if you’re landlocked. However, we may visit the ocean. Italy and France must have spiders, even though I have never seen one there. No doubt Charleston does.
I have deep concerns about how where I live tries and prosecutes its citizens, in particular its children, and I don’t have a hard and fast rule about what conditions ought to or ought not exist to try juvenile offenders as adults. In general, I advocate for prosecutorial compassion and hope to empower juvenile courts with more resources to rehabilitate. I especially have deep concerns about how a state deals with violent crime in respect to sex and hate crimes: is the community we are considering (any community) one that tends to blame the victim, takes seriously or overlooks hate crimes, is it an advocating environment for LGBT persons? Racial minorities? Women? Religious minorities? What organizations and resources exist to alleviate poverty and hunger? Are we considering going to a place that’s limiting its citizens voting rights? What about its attitude toward workers, teachers and education? Gay marriage? Gun control? Climate and green resources?
And, while it’s not on my list, and it’s not a concern with Wichita, access to diverse food sources should be on it, because we lived in Storrs in the late 90s when the only places to eat at UCONN were the chicken wing place, a pricey Inn, McDonald’s, the Brewery Pub, and two sub-par Italian restaurants. And, I was pregnant. UCONN, if you are unaware, is in the middle of Nowhere, Connecticut.
Before anyone who has an abiding love of Kansas gets upset, I’d like to point out that Kansas is only one of at least six states so far in which Peter is considering jobs, and my concerns are not Kansas-specific. In our discussion, I encouraged Peter to consider Wichita because despite the spiders and its landlocked site, I think it would be great place to live. It’s the state’s largest city, possesses tremendous green resources and has a fantastic arts and culture scene. Its location gives it cultural and geographic access to the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, Northwest, and West. It’s also one of the most affordable and pleasant places to live in the country. Henry salivates over tech resources. The best thing about Wichita is how the name feels and sounds when I say it: Wich-a-ta(w). I like to say it over and over.
I haven’t mentioned the city I’m really excited about—it’s located so far north, the nearest large city is in Canada. Henry will suffer terrible shock if we end up there, so we dare not breathe its name (clearly my kid doesn’t bother to read my blog). Can you imagine having to tell your child, “If you want to have any sort of social life, you’ll have to cross the border into Canada. DO NOT goad the Mounties.” A lot of US parents probably do this, but being from Tennessee, this has never occurred to me.
Despite my preoccupations with the insect life of various states, Peter’s job search opens up wonderful possibilities at the same time it provokes a sense of immediate nostalgia. And, of course, it may not pan out, and we’ll stay right we are.