Country Mouse or City Mouse

With our rent inevitably on the rise next summer, Adam and I have been contemplating our next move.  We both really love Brooklyn and could see staying here a couple more years.  However both of us are tempted by the thought of moving out of the city to some cute smaller town nearby – maybe up the Hudson or in NJ?  I find the idea to be simultaneously exciting, soothing and anxiety-producing.  It’s a big change… and we are in the process of a big change already (baby anyone?).  Am I ready for more?  Plus, now it’s not just the two of us.  Wherever we decide to live is where Theo is going to grow up (at least for a little while).  So is he going to be a country mouse or a city mouse?

Theo ponders a life in the country

To be honest, I have never exactly pictured myself having a city kid.  I grew up in a small Norman Rockwellish suburban town about forty-five minutes outside of Boston.  It’s the kind of town with a rotary in the center, a quaint Main Street downtown and a high school, where you graduate with the same 150 kids you went to first grade with.  Now obviously, when I was a teenager I couldn’t wait to leave my little town of Westborough.  I was ready to experience a new place.  I couldn’t wait to throw myself in with thousands of people I’d never met (hence, my venturing off to a humungous midwestern Big Ten university).  But now that I’m all grown up (??), I genuinely appreciate my small-town upbringing.    Yes, I was totally sheltered – but is it so bad to be sheltered when you’re growing up?

As a child, I’d play outside in the yard with my friends (without adult supervision!).  I would ride my bike around the neighborhood by myself… it was safe!  In middle school we’d walk around downtown or get dropped off at the movies (in a shopping center) or at the mall.  What do city kids do?  Where would we teach Theo how to ride a bike?  Where would he hang out with his friends?

Then there’s driving.  Ahhhhh…. driving.  As a sixteen year-old, getting my license was pretty much the best thing that ever happened to me!  Driving was freedom, escape, possibility, responsibility.  Most of the city kids I know don’t know how to drive!  They don’t learn!   And who would want to?  Driving in the city sucks compared to cruising along the picturesque, hilly, tree-lined country roads I grew up with.  Besides, my dad taught me how to drive in a big empty parking lot by our house.  There are no parking lots in the city!  Where do city kids even learn how to drive if they want to?

So I guess at this point in my life, I am leaning more country mouse.  After eleven years in the city, I am beginning to crave a more quiet, simple, nature-filled, small-community lifestyle.  There is something about being outside of the city that fills me.   The air is different.  There are stars!  There is space to breathe.  On weekends lately, I keep feeling this urge to get into the car and escape – to be able to go for a nice drive – to be amongst the trees and grass – to slow down – to be quiet.  Life outside of the city just seems to be a little easier.  This makes me feel like I might be ready to make the move.  But I do have this little nagging fear that maybe I’ll be bored to death if I don’t have everything at my fingertips like I do here.  Now that I have the city under my skin… will I be happy when I leave, or will I feel isolated?

I guess it all comes down to finding the right community.  In my head, I picture a funky, artsy town – filled with city people who have tired of the city lifestyle just like me.  There is still culture and diversity.  There are still great restaurants (at least a few – who needs thousands?) and markets where I can get natural and organic foods.  There is a movie theater where we can see independent films.  There are public schools that are good so we won’t have to pay a college-like tuition starting from Kindergarten (how is this even possible??  I don’t know).  We could have a house – with a yard.  I could drive to the grocery store – or to a mall when I need one (sometimes you just need a mall!!)  I could go for a drive for fun, without having to get on the BQE or the FDR.  We could take Theo for a hike or we could go kayaking.  We could belong to a pool club.  In a dream world, we could even get to the city within an hour – so everything is still at my fingertips… (just longer fingers).  This sounds nice.  I think I could do this.  I think I’d be happy.

So I’m starting to research… so far I’ve been told to check out Dobbs Ferry, NY, Nyack, NY, Maplewood, NJ…  any other suggestions?  I’m all ears. 🙂



18 thoughts on “Country Mouse or City Mouse

  1. Head upstate! Ben and I will be making the move soon! I am very excited for you guys. And Theo looks so cute! Would love to see you this weekend and discuss! I haven’t settled on a place I love personally, but I did like Stone Ridge and High Falls. Closer to Woodstock, Kingston and Rosendale. Xoxo

  2. Nell, You are quite the writer. I really enjoy reading your blogs:) Best of luck with the baby, being a mother is the best gift.

    Take care,

  3. Hey! I can’t believe i’m hearing these words….but honestly, it sounds like you really are ready…..there is a bigger thing here – Theo, and you need to give him what’s best. We had a GREAT time growing up in Westboro and i’d want to give that to my kids too…I know you will choose an amazing little town and when you are totally ready….Proud of you!

  4. There is something so romantic to me about getting a cute house somewhere and having outdoor meals on picnic tables with beautiful gardens and pitchers of lemonade and sangria and stuff like that. You know, how they picture stuff from food and leisure magazines? I think you’ll get that lifestyle. I look forward to you photographing it, and writing about it!

  5. City Mouse or Country Mouse – I’ve pondered that often, albeit in different words. Eventually, I realized that there is, as so often, a third option if you think outside the box. You ask “Brooklyn or Nyack”? I say “Raleigh! Atlanta! Denton! Denver! Portland!” Yes, there are cities that are a lot smaller than NYC but still have a decent size. Moving away from New York sounds like suicide when you live there, but after the detox is over (3-4 years) you will thoroughly enjoy it. I live in Raleigh NC: I can walk five minutes east and I’m in the middle of downtown with street cafes and night life. I can walk five minutes west and I’m out in the woods at a bubbling brook. I have a two-year-old, and I think growing up as a “Midsized City Mouse” is the best for him, and also for us parents.
    Make a list of cities that have between 300,000 and 600,000 people; visit 5-10 that sound exciting; and then… get outta there!
    And I love your blog; will keep reading.

    • Thanks for the comment! Yes – I think a small city is a wonderful option and I LOVED Portland, OR when I visited. I also have some friends who live in Raleigh and they are trying to convince us to move there as well. They love it! I’d consider lots of places if my family would follow me. I’m a family girl… not sure how far I want to venture. Hmmmm. going to check out your blog now. 🙂

  6. Hi Nell,

    It’s nice to get your blog postings again and hear your thoughts:) Cute photo of Theo….

    It is hard to believe that you will be moving from the FireHouse but it is inevitable! I’m sure that where ever you land you will make it home and love it:) And if it’s not just right you can always move again! You don’t have to think in such long range terms as Theo’s schooling ….there are so many years before that and it would be easier to fulfill your requirements for the shorter term as opposed to the longer one! Just a thought:)

    LOVE & HUGS, Lorene xoxo

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