This I Believe

Jeanne - Callicoon Center, New York
Entered on February 3, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

They come for the chirping birds and the babbling brooks.

I just wish they didn’t bring the chirp of their keyless remotes.

My hometown is a tourist town.

September through May, it’s ours.

Memorial Day weekend, we run for cover.

A quiet corner of upstate New York, Callicoon has one stoplight and one blinking light.

We have one grocery store, one laundromat, one theater with one screen.

We hand over our town to the visitors in late May, well aware of what we’re in for.

They will funnel gas into their SUVs and burgers into their tummies.

They will tip the waitstaff and throw gobs of money at doodads.

For that, we are grateful.

We need the summer to keep us afloat the rest of the year.

Teenagers depend on bellhopping and lifeguarding to sock away for college, pizza makers on that extra dough to squirrel away for January and February rent.

For that, we accept the traffic on one-lane back roads and grocery store checkout lines like those before a big storm.

We plan our weeks around the predictable patterns of the summer crowds – no trips to the supermarket on Saturday morning, no use trying the public river access on Sunday.

As children, we were confused by the ruckus.

“I’m bored,” we whined. “There’s nothing to do around here!”

We wanted a mall, McDonald’s, even a Wal-Mart.

Instead we got a river patrolled by the National Park Service, a grocery store that closes at 6 p.m., a theater that shows only second-run flicks.

We got bald eagles, woodchucks and caterpillars that made a satisfying pop when I ran them over with my bicycle.

“Who wants to come see that?”

A lot of people.

They want to swim in a river that won’t turn their toes green.

They want to watch a deer walk her fawn across a meadow and a beaver build a nest.

It’s only now, as my toddler points out the “birdies” and “horsies,” that I get it.

I’m proud to live in a get-away, a destination if you will.

I step off my porch and feel the cool, wet grass on my toes.

I relish the scratchy tongue of a cow as it licks hay from your clenched fist.

I can name every teller in my bank and counterperson at my deli.

I leave the keys hanging from the ignition of my car at the post office, convenience store and ice cream stand, walk back 20 minutes later and find them where I left them.

The visitors who stroll into town find something here. They fought Friday night traffic to get here; they’ll fight the same battle Sunday on the way home.

So it would seem they want to be here – badly. They find something they call “quaint” or “cute.”

We aren’t “quaint,” we just are. We aren’t “cute,” we’re living. We live a country life that suits us. They live urban and suburban lives that suit them.

And I wouldn’t trade for all the tea in china.