[Inspired by Sunday Scribblings]
My dad was born and raised in Borough Park, a neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. He attended school there, and went to college and medical school within that southeast corner of New York State.
It wasn't that he never left the city - he went to a summer camp in rural New Hampshire. And when he was in college, he took ski trains that went to Vermont, where they parked on a siding, and the skiers climbed up the hills in order to slide down them. And to further his medical experience, he was able to take a trip (via boat) to Puerto Rico to study tropical diseases.
Then World War II interrupted. He spent years in the South Pacific as a medic.
When he got back from the war, he needed to apply for medical residency programs. He and his friend (who had also been in the Army) decided that the next time there was a war, it was likely that New York City would be bombed. They didn't want to be there for that. They had also been reading Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi" and, inspired by that book, they applied to programs in St. Louis, Missouri.
So that is how my city-born and city-bred father came to the middle of the country.
He was always something of a modern-day Renaissance Man, studying everything and able to talk to anybody. He was always learning and inspiring others to learn. I don't know what he had been reading or studying when he completed his medical training. But whatever the inspiration, he had visions of becoming a "gentleman farmer."
And that was what brought him to the small town in the middle of the midwest nowhere, where he eventually met my mom.
My mom was born and raised in that small midwest town. That town of about 5500 people, surrounded by even smaller towns and lots and lots of farmland. Her family had been farmers, some were still farmers then. She knew how hard farming was. She thought my dad didn't really understand what was involved with farming. She encouraged him to start with a garden.
As it turns out, a garden was a good compromise. Eventually it was a very large garden, providing a lot of food for the family and friends, not because we needed it, but because he had fun with it and it all tasted so good.
So you see, I grew up in a small town, child of a mixed marriage of sorts. I received different gifts from each of my parents.
From my mom, I grew up to appreciate trees and space. From her I learned what it is like to live in a place where everyone knows you. And I learned from her relatives how hard it is to run a farm, and that although they are nice places to visit, I am much too lazy to survive on one. I learned that some small town and country folks are very intimidated by the city.
From my dad, I grew to appreciate the search for more. I learned to experiment with other cultures, to read, explore, and travel. To see out art and literature. I learned how to walk in the city without looking like a target. And from his relatives I learned that even in the 1960's some city folks still believed that Cowboys and Indians still battled it out on the plains of the midwest. (seriously!)
I now live in the 'burbs. I work in a city, but I come home to see woods behind my house and pond behind the neighbor's house. And I vacation in the middle of the woods, out of cell phone range. I try to appreciate both my country-heritage and my city-heritage.