|My childhood home in Holland, Mich. (December 2013)|
As this post goes live, Hanna and I will be
landing in Boston and making our way back to our current home in Allston, after having spent a week enjoying our last day with my parents in Michigan, after a United flight cancellation prolonged our stay for an extra twenty-four hours. My parents still live in the 1891 farmhouse in central Holland (a block from the public library, natch) that they purchased as a fixer-upper in 1976 and in which I grew up. It’s a home, neighborhood, and even city that I still hold a lot of respect and affection for.
So. Eclectic observations from our eight-day stay:
- It was funny to re-adjust to a Christian week (Sunday as the day of rest) rather than secular (seven-day) and Jewish (Saturday closure) week model, which is the model in our area of Boston/Brookline. Not that Holland observes Sunday closures as rigorously as they used to when my dad was a kid, or even when I was young, but you still have to check hours before going out.
- Everything feels so much more spacious and open here, now, with my sense accustomed to urban density. I love the wide sidewalks and set-back homes, the green spaces and big trees. These objectively have their downsides, environmental cost among them, but I also can’t stop my body from relaxing into the familiarity of room and breathing more expansively while I am here. I hold that tension in my awareness.
- Hanna and I both miss the range of coffee shops and specialty food options here relative to Boston; you grow so used to being able to select this from shop A and that from shop B. Still, there’s something restful about going to lemonjello’s and seeing all the comfortable regulars.
- It’s amazing how much muscle memory I have. I don’t have to think about driving directions or traffic signals most of the time. And it’s so much less stressful to not have to think about how to get from A to B, not to have to plan hour-plus windows of time to get virtually anywhere, and not to have to strategize about how to carry things (because one has the boot of a car to schlep in).
- It’s weird to see stuff I left behind when I moved in 2007 more or less in the same location as where I left it six years ago, albeit with shoals of other familial objects stacked up around them. My brother, sister, and all still have things semi-stored here and it’s this weird combination of echoes of occupied rooms, arranged as they were, and then stuff from various college dorm rooms and other temporary accommodations silted in.
- I realize when I walk around town that I’m picturing people living in homes they lived in ten years ago, when in reality at least a good third of occupants have changed up. Still, my mind-pictures go back to when I was eleven and delivering newspapers or twenty-one and house-sitting for professors.
- The out-of-doors feels much more quiet here (fewer people, more space) while the indoors feels noisier, in mostly a good way, as family and friends come and go.
- It’s always hard to see everyone — even the short list! — I want to see and catch up with in a week. I’m sorry to everyone around whom I seemed fatigued, and thank Goddess we can all stay in touch via Twitter and Facebook between visits. I know social media is everyone’s object of hate du jour these days, but I still feel grateful for the way it connects me to loved ones across vast geographic distances.
- My parents have mostly had a one-income marriage, and my dad doesn’t make much more than Hanna and I do combined. I appreciate the many reasons that couples are encouraged away from the one-career model, but I also appreciate the way a one-income household can actually stay sane in ways a two-earner household cannot. My mom and Hanna’s dad (the homemaker parent in her family) do a lot of quality work in terms of home upkeep and repair, meals, maintaining friends and family relationships, and, in earlier days, childcare. Hanna and I basically have to abandon or outsource a lot of things like food preparation and home maintenance during the workweek and I’m aware of the way in which this makes our life together more expensive and rushed than either of us like. Something for us to remain mindful of in the coming decade as we make decisions about where we live and how we work.
- I don’t miss having/driving a car as much as I used to, when I first moved to Boston. Still, there is something free-ing about being able to get in the car and run to the store in five minutes rather than the same errand taking forty-five minutes in the city. I read Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser on the flight from Boston last week, and one of his points about urban life is that those encouraging city living need to solve the time-in-transit dilemma, because most people will opt for a fifteen minute drive over ninety minutes of multi-modal travel (foot, bus, subway) — because we all want/need more time in our day. (Some of his other points were sketchier, but I agree with this one.)
- I don’t experience the same frustrating regression many of my peers seem to when staying with their parents, in that I don’t feel my adult, married-life self is jeopardized or erased or eclipsed by a younger self. Part of this might be because I spent my mid-twenties in and out of my childhood home, and thus established new footing for my relationship with my parents. I also have parents who are awesomely willing and able to know me as an adult person. I wonder as more and more young people share homes with their parents for economic reasons if we will see cultural narratives around parent-child relationships change in any significant way.
- I concentrate better in my parents’ home than I do in Boston. Part of it is, of course, the false comparison of being-on-vacation vs. regular-work-schedule life, but it is also a function of the home-space my parents have provided, one which encourages both togetherness and seclusion, the ability to be alone-while-together, to focus on a book without other competing demands. A small apartment in a crowded urban environment (to some extent necessarily) makes for more distraction. A crowded physical space makes for a crowded mental one, at least for me, and that takes its toll. I don’t think we talk enough about this when we discuss urban density and the need to protect peoples’ quality of life even while working to increase affordability and environmental sustainability.