Ed. Note: This is an essay from the archives that I initially published in October 2018 and am re-publishing today in modestly edited format because its sentiments continue to echo in me, five years later, and having moved back to my hometown in the intervening years. My parents are now preparing to move from the house mentioned below and I find myself enthusiastic for them but sentimental, mildly melancholy about the impermanences of life. Editing this essay, I thought to myself: but home is people more than place. And so I know I can continue to lean on their generous refrain: you are loved, you are loved, you are loved.
I’m writing this from the attic bedroom of my parents’ home, on a pillow-top bed, my hair dripping wet from the shower, a towel with my maiden monogram embroidered on it around my shoulders. It’s 9:38 p.m. and all I can think about is the sharp sing-song of the crickets outside the window, a sound so familiar yet foreign to me now as a Manhattanite, their chirp a hypnosis from childhood. I note the click-click of my parents’ bedroom door closing, the shuffle of their feet on the wood floor as they retire for the evening. There are occasional creaks in the roof that terrify me even now — at thirty four — on the rare occasion I spend the night alone here, but with my parents downstairs, I embrace them as part of the settled-in snug of this house.
My parents moved here when I was out of college. I had a romantic attachment to my childhood home, a grand stone-faced one on the top of a hill that I always think of in black-and-white, as if it were permanently stuck in a film noir, but this one is better in many ways: more livable, more modern, with a kind graciousness to its dimensions. An elevator to accommodate aging parents, an oversized kitchen befitting of our sprawling family, large bedrooms for cousins to share. And — though I did not grow up here, did not learn to ride a two-wheeler here, did not build pillow forts here, did not place my first lost tooth under my pillow here, did not careen down the steps on Christmas morning here, did not cry into my pillow over fourteen-year-old crushes here, did not whisper stories I’d filched from books I’d read and pawned off as my own into the dark night to my sisters here — here, too, I feel like a child.
In New York, as Mr. Magpie put it recently, “we adult hard.” We attend pre-school open houses. We make doctor’s appointments. We tip people. We have “Handyman Richie” saved in our cell phones. We coordinate on schedules — “can you get a sitter for the seventh?” “what’s going on the 23rd?” We rant about the COI protocols in our building. We weigh the pros and cons of renewing our Costco membership. I realized as I sat down at my desk the other day, rolling its drawer towards my lap to remove my day planner, its pages thick with invitations, receipts, coupons, sticky notes — that I have become my mother. The scroll-y thwirl of the drawer opening, her hand poised above the agenda page with a pen, her ear cradling a phone. “Mhm, how about Thursday the 8th?” she would say, thumbing through her pages, also thick with invitations, receipts, coupons, and sticky notes. I am an extension of her gesture.
Here, now, my mother has stocked the pantry with my favorite Cheez-its and the best flavors of LaCroix are never in short supply, without my ever having to take mental note. Dinner is around the long polished wood table, on china, in their formal dining room, after grace has been said. I have to start saying grace with mini, I think to myself. Towels are fluffy, white, and folded in tidy rows in the linen closet — a far cry from the unceremonious stack in a linen bin on top of our drying machine. The bathroom is always stocked with shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, qtips, soap, fresh towels, “and an extra set, too, in the cabinet, just in case.” My father often inquires about the temperature of my bedroom: “a few degrees cooler? warmer?” He leaves clippings and articles on the steps with my initials on them in blotchy permanent marker. I will often return to the kitchen to find my belongings in a neat pile.
Aren’t we lucky to be children?
On the surface of it, a fatuous thought: yes, Jen, it’s the circle of life. But I mean it in the sense that every now and then I come home and realize, “Oh, no no. I’m not a real adult yet.” And I feel myself relax into the indulgences and generosities of my parents, my New York life a kind of distant performance. This visit in particular: I had committed to taking the 1 train to Penn Station to catch the 10 a.m. Acela to Union Station, and then jumping onto the redline up to the Tenley stop, all on my own, with my 18-month-old at my side. Nothing indomitable, but — I’ll admit — tricky and exhausting when there were two elevators out of order on my New York subway excursion alone, and mini scarcely tolerated a few minutes on my lap on the train. My father texted me early the morning I left: “Will meet you at the gate at Union. ETA?” I put him off: “No, no. I’ll just metro.” (You can do this!) He insisted; I accepted. And when I wheeled mini out the sliding glass doors into the station, his was the first face I saw. I don’t know that he noticed the slight wobble in my chin when I hugged him. The uncoiling of something, the release, when he took my bags from my arms, wordlessly paused our little caravan at the pay-station to pay the parking ticket, led me to his car, contemplated the best route home. It was a shift in gears. I wallowed in the breakers of a relief I did not know I wanted or needed.
I felt in that moment wildly privileged by love. What an outrageous largesse, to have someone carry the weight of the day’s logistics for you, to fold down your bed covers, to anticipate your needs. We often talk about parenthood as a gift, but coming home is a reminder that my daughterhood has been an embarrassment of riches, and its principle bestowal the alleluiah chorus: you are loved, you are loved, you are loved.
+An aubade to parenting. (A very, very old blog post written while I was pregnant with my daughter close to seven years ago.)
+We love (!) our Technivorm Moccamaster. I’ve written a bunch about it, but it is truly a joy. Sort of a blend of drip coffee and pourover? I would love to one day have an espresso-maker, even one of those inexpensive stovetop Moka things because I absolutely love lattes, but don’t enjoy them enough to legitimize the purchase of one of the expensive fancy ones. Thoughts?
+A really good transitional cardigan.
+Has anyone tried Anthro’s Colette pants? I know they’re a bestseller season after season. Love the shape!
+These hair vitamins keep selling out, but people are raving about them. You don’t swallow — you squeeze the capsules onto your hair.
+Love this mini writing desk. Would be great for an NY apartment, child’s room, etc. Seriously eyeing for my son. He won’t need a desk for awhile yet but it’s SO cute.
+In last week’s Ask Magpie, a reader asked about back-to-school outfits for pre-schoolers. TBBC JUST launched their school collection, which was my go-to for my daughter before she wore a uniform. I love a dress like this for the occasion with a big ol’ Wee Ones bow and fresh pair of Cientas.
+A super-pretty cocktail dress for summer.
+Love this striped blouse.
+Wireless children’s headphones! Why have I not thought of these in the past?
+More seriously considering getting in on the denim maxi skirt trend. I think I’ll go with Gap on this one. Love that it comes in petite lengths!