Friday, July 21, 2006

Family moves from New York and comes 'home'

We know the "country mouse" fable: Most choose either the country or the big city. But Betsy Boggs Freund is a rare, adaptable soul: The Salem native flourished for years in New York City.

Now she, husband, David, and son Harrison have "come home." In fact, they're settling into a house next door to Betsy's mother, Audrey Boggs, who said with a laugh, "I'll need to be clued how to act, living this close to relatives for the first time."

Betsy met David at a party in the Hamptons, N.Y., two decades ago; they married in 1988. Yale-educated (undergrad and graduate degrees) David hailed from Scarsdale, N.Y., but his mother was born and reared in Roanoke. (He also has another graduate degree from San Diego State University.)

Betsy had taken her Virginia education (She attended Mary Baldwin College; Virginia Commonwealth University, Bachelor of Arts in interior design.) to New York 27 years ago. She worked on high-profile projects for several design and architectural firms until she took time off for full-time motherhood. Eventually she began to work on her own; self-employment allowed her flexibility for volunteering at Harrison's schools.

She said this also allowed time for volunteering for her "passion": "parks and gardens and the quality of life they provide to city residents." She was a charter member, then president of the all-volunteer, nonprofit Friends of St. Catherine's Park. The park's heavy use by neighbors, nearby schoolchildren and patients' families and staff from four area hospitals makes it the second-busiest park of New York's five boroughs.

Her efforts included grant-writing and recruiting professional and volunteer gardeners. She worked closely with the New York parks and police departments; hospital and school personnel and local officials.

David's retirement and sale of the family textile company, which was founded in 1845, in the fall created a good time for the Freunds' move to Salem.

The timing also worked well for Harrison's transition to Salem High School as a rising freshman, said grandmother Audrey, with whom he lived last year.

He's acclimated well, Betsy wrote in an e-mail. He made the honor roll, is on the swim team and is a junior member of the Roanoke Cycling Organization. Betsy looks forward to "a balanced life": time with family, part-time work from home and community involvement (the Salem Garden Club immediately recruited her).

The family just finished moving here over an exhausting July Fourth weekend. Betsy is now busy remodeling their home (the late Realtor Edgar Thurman's house).

Betsy misses her favorite New York City restaurants, friends, her church and bicycling in Central Park. But she observed how -- when busy with daily life -- one often doesn't take advantage of nearby wonderful offerings.

Meanwhile, they're thrilled to be close to family (Betsy's father, retired Salem Veterans' Administration surgeon Charlie Boggs, lives in Harrisonburg). It was also a "quality-of-life decision to move to a more nurturing place -- less frenetic, less transient and less expensive," Betsy said. And, after years in an apartment, they like having a house and a yard.

"We wanted our son to have the experience of being part of a closely knit community ... and attending St. Paul's Church and the terrific Salem High School," she continued. (She's also amazed by Salem's street department.)

The family loves many things here: "... the more leisurely pace and waking up to birds, instead of to garbage trucks, sirens and the general din of the city. ... We also love seeing sunrises, sunsets and stars on clear nights, things you can't see when you're surrounded by lighted skyscrapers. ... We love the mountains and the natural beauty of the area, and feel happy to have come back home."

Sometimes we "country mice" take such daily glories for granted.