White Picket Fence

Ever since I was a kid I have dreamed of living on a street in a small town in a white clapboard house surrounded by a white picket fence. It was probably an image I got from watching a wholesome movie like Its A Great Life, or some Mickey Rooney film. The idyllic setting appealed to me and still does. The house I grew up in was not in a small town, but in a small neighborhood in a very big city. We did not have a large enough yard for a picket fence to wrap around the front yard. We did have a picket fence separating us from the neighbors on either side. What ever it was that image has returned regularly throughout my lifetime.

Over the years I have lived in many places. Going away to college counts for many of them. After college and marriage I settled into a small village near the big city, but again the yard was not large enough to sport a white picket fence. House number two was in a tiny town out in the country and away from the big city, but that yard was too large for a picket fence and besides the homeowners association had rules stipulating no fences at all. It didn’t fit my ideal but I loved living there nonetheless. My final house is again in a neighborhood, but it is now part of the little town that house number two was in except the town is no longer small and idyllic.

One summer, I took my kids to see Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. I love that place. I could see myself living there in Colonial times. It conveys an image of a life during peacetime when people had only to concentrate on feeding and clothing their families. Most who lived in Williamsburg raised their own food, or bartered their talents for food. Each resident had a small cottage with a yard large enough to sustain themselves and to keep animals too. Some of those families were rich enough to afford a horse to pull a small wagon. They had everything, but none of it came from China, and most of it was homemade by them or their neighbors. The fences they had were necessary to separate the animals from the vegetables. Animals love fresh vegetables and keeping them side by side is risky for the city farmer.

Why is all this coming to haunt me? As I age, I long for a simple life in a very small community where everyone knows everyone, and the homes have white picket fences. Reading the book Tom Sawyer might have cemented that picture in my mind. Reading about how Tom duped his buddies into painting the white picket fence for him was one of my favorite chapters. Last week I searched the internet for towns in Illinois with small populations. There are many, but most are long distances away from my family. I seem to like towns with about two thousand people. They seem to fit my dream. The houses are mostly small, and old. The yards are large, meaning a lot of maintenance is required. None of them have picket fences probably because of the added cost and because picket fences require regular maintenance. Will I ever realize my dream? Probably not, but it is fun thinking about living in a situation where it would be a lot of fun if I were forty years old and not eighty. Why, I could raise chickens and keep a large organic vegetable garden. Think of all the energy I would expend pulling weeds and killing vegetable eating bugs and butterflies.

A few years ago, I wrote my autobiography and one of the chapters was titled “City Farm.” I described the way my Mom kept a garden that covered every square inch of the available yard. She had chickens, raised vegetables, fruit, and also a myriad of flowers at the same time. The lady never sat still. While she was doing all that garden stuff I was able to get lost on the block and play with my buddies. Ahh for the good old days.

Now it is wine time!

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