There' has been a ton of chatter this past week (maybe a lot longer) about the lists that rank the Scranton metro area as "unhappy"… not mention unemployed, hung over and massively corrupt, so it might seem awkward for me of all people to write a blog about a happy place here in NEPA,
but I will,
because I own it.
I was padding through the back lawn of my family's home in Dalton when it hit me… I felt at peace. It was strange feeling these days, seeing as how I haven't felt peaceful at all for a time frame that I can only describe as: "as long as I can remember".
It was warm, very warm in fact, and the swarming bugs were intense, but that didn't detract a thing from the peaceful calm that settled over me in that moment. The breeze blew through the trees that hung heavy over me, and the sky pushed a series of foreboding clouds around that gave you the sense of a pending storm at any given moment, but the world seemed strangely right somehow as I toured the grounds.
In my eyes, during the last ten to fifteen years, NEPA has become a place that sadly lacks an abundance of true beauty. I know there will be people who sharply disagree with me but I have traveled enough to know how we live surrounded by a landscape of mediocre architecture and landscape design. The detail work of creating true beauty is lost here for the most part… it's like we take no pride in our area or the things that we create here any longer.
Many formerly magnificent places in NEPA suffer from anything from basic neglect, to the problem of having been abandoned years ago and never fixed. Trees grow over clum dumps (drive the Casey Hwy), beautiful city buildings that represent our former glory are allowed to deteriorate to a level where razing them is the only option (The Sterling Hotel), it's become routine to pass rotting cars in the front yard of a see through house and soon pass a development of estate style homes… sad, sickening, not to mention downright depressing.
I know that you're saying that "of course your family home is your favorite, it's a place where your memories are and of course you'll have a prejudice to it" but I'm not alone in feeling it's soothing effects… Erika feels it too (and not because she drank any Kool Aid either).
Maybe I just love what I have; maybe I've gained a deeper appreciation for the property itself, or maybe it really is as awesome as I think it is, but in all honesty, the combination of location and convenience plus the somewhat uppity neighbors that surround it make it a safe, quiet, and sort of "Eden-istic" type of place. It's pretty place, and honestly there's not too many of those left here… trust me I've looked.
As I was humming along on the lawn mower the other evening a realization suddenly occurred to me… I love cutting the grass.
As a teenager I used the family mower as my primary means of income, and as a supplement to it for several years after that as well. When I circle the lawn these days that old familiar vibration from the whirling blades is like a sort of time machine, and in my mind (for a brief moment) I'm back in high school on my summer break working for gas money, or home from college putting a fresh cut on the grass for some extra beer bucks, or maybe just doing what my mom no longer could in her later years... it's amazing what places that mower can take me in my imagination.
Maybe it's the accumulation of hours spent making laps in most of the neighborhood lawns, or the familiar and welcome smell of fresh cut grass combined with the exhaust of a Tecumseh engine, or possibly it's the gentle roll of the mowers tires upon a well fertilized field of green that is so inspiring to me… who knows, who cares, whatever it is I love it!
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't choose it as a career change, but I do completely enjoy the simple pleasure of making the lawn look like a golf course every week… almost as much as I enjoy the beer that awaits me when I've returned the mower to its spot between our cars in the garage.
It's an amazing thing: when you have extra time you have no money, and when you have no time you have extra money! Oh boy, is that me!
I guess I shouldn't complain… I have a successful business, I love what I do, I make enough money to afford an amazing lifestyle, and I am grateful for all of those things, but I just wish that I could slow it all down a bit these days.
I look forward to the summer months with an adoration bordering on idol worship, yet in my line of work, when they arrive I begin a schedule that allows me nearly no time to enjoy the warm NEPA summer weather at all. My grueling 6 to 7 day work weeks come at a heavy price too: I rarely rest, when I do it's abbreviated, and I miss my family terribly.
Yeah, I make a sizable amount of money (that's usually spent by the following April) but the world spins another direction from where my attention is focused during the 5-6 month time frame that I'm talking about.
I usually begin to lighten up with commitments around the beginning of November, which as you know, begins the slow decent into winter, and thus the ugly side of the cycle begins again.
Sadly, we need the money I'm making to do the things we've planned for our future more than I need an extra nap, and that requires work, so I suppose that I have to come to terms with the fact that I will wake up at the end of this glorious summer span and once again realize that I have worked my way through all of it.
I need to make a confession… I never wanted to be involved with a woman who had kids (or one kid) at all.
There I said it. It's not that I didn't try a few times to date a mother of one (or two+) but it always ended badly, or maybe never started at all. I lived most of my life like a member of the Seinfeld cast… too picky, and if there were even the slightest reason to abandon a relationship (or even begin one at all) I would take full advantage of that exit sign and bolt.
I remember being 3 minutes into a first date when a woman asked "So, do you like kids"… then confessed that she had five. Ladies a word of advice: Don't do this! Let us decide if we like you (and you decide if you like us) then drop the bomb and we all can decide on taking the next step together, okay? Okay.
I also remember the girl that insisted that I meet her son for the first time at the mall (why, I'm not sure) and he showed up with a kiddie police helmet that had a flashing light and siren on it. As we walked the mall, for the next thirty minutes I wasn't sure if I were on a date or under arrest!
Then was the closest call of them all… I'd met a very beautiful friend of a friend, who had a young son, and was moving to Vegas. She knew I was intimidated by even the thought of kids, and told me that if I wanted to her to stay in PA., and if I wanted to have a relationship with her, I'd have to be equally involved with her son (good move). When I turned her request to meet him down, I instantly realized that I wasn't ready for that big of a step, and apparently I was not wanting her in my life enough to take it.
That all changed (not at once mind you) when I met Erika and she introduced me to Piper. I started learning a new life and a new way to look at life as well. Yeah, I fought hard at first to avoid the idea that I was falling for a 2 year old, but like it or not it was happening, and there was little I could do about it.
Now, let's be honest, kids are a full- time commitment and bring with them a HUGE change in the way that a single guy with no kids has to live his life.
Your schedule and freedom are compromised.
Your patience and ego are tested.
Your budget and sleep schedule are busted, completely…
and somehow it all makes sense, when you have the love a child.
I have found my soul mate in Erika, but I have also met the love of my life at the same time… she is five years old, a fussy eater, and can throw a wicked tantrum without a word of warning, but she has taught me how to be a person I never knew I could be, and she makes me better just by being in my life, every day.