When you live in a centralized state like Sweden, you end up feeling like a teenager. You totally resent the, like, interference, dude. But you can’t complain about living in the big attic bedroom at mom and dad’s house.
A nurse paid us a home visit last week, and we returned the favor yesterday (don’t think I wasn’t checking her place out real good). But what the visit really did was take me back to our pediatrician in Port Jervis, the gritty exurb, industrial river town at the end of the train line from New York City where we tried and failed to make a go of it. (Note – As a newspaper editor, I once let the city be described as “gritty” in a positive story, and boy did I hear about it. I defended the word then, but I will really defend it now. Port Jervis is gritty. It defines gritty. Learn to love the grit. Gritty can coexist with new antique shops and nice restaurants and a lovely river. Really. Have some pride.)
Anyway, our first doctor was oddly disconnected and let NK scream and didn’t let us hold her when he gave her shots and was generally useless. We were still determined to stay in town and within walking distance. Here, though, we finally came to our senses and changed doctors.
I have no such fears here. And I pondered how much better our life is here in the welfare state, than all alone at the end of the train, even with damn good health insurance.
Port Jervs – unfriendly, no shopping, no family, one great neighbor, no mothers groups (there was one Christian group that met monthly in a church 15 minutes away, and I occasionally drove NK and E to a baby yoga class in Middletown that averaged two children), no community life for newcomers, no way to meet people, bad doctors, town square filled with drunks.
Sweden – unfriendly, lots of shopping, a little family, a smattering of friends, good doctors, playgrounds filled with children, drunks on a bench up on a hill behind some trees out of sight, and, our savior, open preschool.
Open preschool is glorious. You take your kid there, and there are toys, a few teachers and lots of other new parents. You are responsible for your child, but you can run to the bathroom (this is important), you can have a coffee and you can small talk.
Now both Sweden and Port Jervis are not friendly in general. But in Sweden the state has faciliated help, stepped in for the people without two sets of grandparents to help out.
In Port Jervis, in the exurbs, you just slowly die.