Who are we when we're not at home?
With the worst possible timing, we moved all of our belongings out of our home and into an apartment this past week.
It was the week during which our city was hit with a snowstorm, leaving 50% of residents without power. (And we were among the lucky ones, as we only lost power for most of a day. Many of our close friends were without it, in the freezing temperatures, for the whole week.) We accordingly lost childcare that entire week and thus all of the clarity of mind I had counted on to power us through the move. But thanks to the immense generosity, sacrifice, and muscles of many friends, we pulled it off. We really could not have done it without our amazing community, who showed up in 18-degree icy weather and cheerfully loaded and unloaded a U-Haul multiple times, hauling boxes and furniture back and forth from our house and into an apartment and storage unit. Moving is the least fun time anyone can have, but it was downright pleasant because of the generous people in our lives. Our friends are the true heroes in this narrative.
We moved out because we’re beginning a long-awaited, long-dreamt-about renovation on our shabby little mid-century house. Just today, the construction team was over making big red X marks on walls that will be demolished (scattering asbestos to the wind!). I’ve dreamed about this project for so long that I still have a hard time believing it’s happening.
And so here we are in this apartment with our two little boys for the better part of 2022. It’s not bad. We’re definitely the oldest people here. We have a nice view of T&N Printing and the row of million-dollar townhomes facing the C&O railroad. We have a very sensitive fire alarm and an electric range so basic in its functions that Moses could operate it. We have demoralizing beige carpet and two balconies.
Guion remarked that living here is a curious test of what really makes our family a family. What about our behaviors were actually linked to our familiar environment in Woolen Mills? Will we behave differently because of the space we’re in? Who are we when we’re not at home?
I’m reminded of a favorite passage from Alain de Botton’s book The Architecture of Happiness:
We depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them. We look to our buildings to hold us, like a kind of psychological mould, to a helpful vision of ourselves.
I’m not sure that this bland apartment will create in us a more inspirational psychological mould, but who knows? Anything is possible when you yank a little family out of their home and put them in a giant apartment complex with a bunch of 20-somethings.
Black Paper, Teju Cole
Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Ted Tripp
British Designers at Home, Jenny Rose-Innes