Tom and I had both grown up in old houses, but our two children were born in a birthing center near our Upper West Side rental. As they grew, so I grew more and more obsessed with the idea of finding a house. It wasn't really a matter of space— we're lucky to have a pretty large rent-stabilized apartment. Was it then that I wanted to be sure my children, after they'd grown up, would never entirely be able to shrug off the spaces of their childhoods, would always be haunted by them?
At the center of the human heart is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world, said Simone Weil. Is it just the wishful thinking of ascetics and saints, this true and virtuous root beneath the brambles of all our material desires? I don't know, but isn't it true that the things we've longed for are inevitably less beautiful, less satisfying— less desirable— the closer we get to them?
We've had trouble travelling to and from the house. We've had trouble keeping the necessary car in the city, where our jobs are. The house has seemed a drain on our energy (and, oh my god, finances) and many times we've thought about selling it. Then we've kept it. And the economy's crashed, and houses all around us are in foreclosure. And still the light ripples over the walls, and we're tenuously hanging on to our jobs, and we're thankful to have this.