Last week I accompanied Kristen on her data collection trip, and we spent the weekend monitoring seat belt use in western Virginia. If ever you see a petite girl wearing a yellow reflective vest, red hat, giant purple sunglasses, and clicking dials on her clipboard, make sure you and your shot gun passenger are wearing your seatbelts properly. She can see the glint of the unused seat belt buckle dangling behind you. And she will mark you a "No" when she does.
It's rather strange the intersections we found ourselves haunting--a corner outside a general store, the edge of a big white house's lawn, a cotton field. Very little traffic passed by, but a good percentage of that traffic was friendly. More than a few times a car would roll to a stop as the inevitable elbow poked out the window, bracing the curious driver as he leaned out--"what are you doing?" "Are you selling something?" "Honey, did your car break down?" I usually watched these interchanges from Kris's car, feeling rather like a ninny in my skirt and flats in the tall dewy grasses. I could just imagine some of the unfriendly types snorting about how the damn government spends our damn tax dollars paying two lumps to chat along the side of a random road. No, for most of the sites I would read or nap in the front seat, popping out only occasionally with a funny story about a budgie or to snap photographs of fields.
Ever since I left England I have been searching for the home and land I want to own some day, and western Virginia is a step in my dream's direction with its friendly population, mom-and-pop stores, and fields--oh yes, and livestock like cows or, best of all, GOATS. The pace of life is slower here and people are content to lounge on their front porches as the cars go by. The house I will own will have a porch, a porch that's big enough for chairs and the odd table or two. I can see my children running around, my dogs scattered on the steps sniffing the air, and the occasional waft of fragrant goat wisping from the back, bug-tusseling with the sharper scent of jasmine that's planted alongside the house. I shall have vegetables planted on raised beds, a few fruit trees and soft fruits, and copper gardening tools tucked in the shed--where, ahem, my sweet little children last left them.
These children--five or six--I will teach at home, training the older to teach the younger in some subjects. They will have chores around the house and farm and no television. I want them to cultivate imaginations of their own. There's no telling what they'll come up with as entertainment--they might form an entourage of talking cats named, oh, Melissa and Maria and Mary; they might make their own mystery movie called something like "On the Verge of Darkness" that involves clever twists that truly puzzle their viewers. They might don their fluorescent Ninja Turtle helmets with interchangeable eye bands that they for some reason picked out at the toy store having never shown any interest at all in Raphael or Michelangelo and cycle around bends as they evade the "cops" since they're "robbers." They might take on the role of busy mothers named Marge Smith and Marjorie Boushingles who take their kids to ice-skating lessons--and who might inadvertently show up at the dinner table instead...
...On second thought, maybe television is villainized. I um, think I'll park them in front of the tele for the whole day 'cause there's no telling what shinanigans kids'll come up with these days...or in days in which their mother grew up.