It took a long time to love where I live.
When we first pulled up to the house in a gigantic yellow moving truck with a car trailer on the back, I was charmed by the dirt road and the surrounding woods but not by the house. The house was small. Porch boards were broken or bent. The inside had lovely windows but beige, worn carpet. Our bed took up three quarters of the bedroom. I had to climb over M every time I needed to go to the bathroom in the night, which was fine because we were newly married and had not yet learned the necessary power of a solid night of sleep.
The house now looks nothing like the house then, and we still have the charming road and surrounding woods. Our bed now takes up maybe an eighth of the bedroom which leaves us plenty of space for clean, unfolded laundry. But, more, we are embedded in every wall, every inch of floor. This is where T took his first steps, five of them at once, and then clapped at himself and laughed. This is where L broke open his top lip. And this is where B howled during tubby time every other night for a year. It’s funny, how the most coveted memories are the ones that made me despair at the time.
Our street is not half deserted. Usually it is all-the-way deserted. We can see the house of one neighbor. We have rush hour every day when three or four cars barrel too fast around our corner in quick succession. But mostly we are alone on the road. I don’t think I have the capacity any more for living in a crowd. I am too used to the quiet, the stillness, the hush. I am used to knowing every person in my view.
Someday we may move, and that will be fine, too. Donald Hall has an essay in a recent issue of the New Yorker – I don’t know which issue, it’s the one that’s been stuck to our table for at least a week’s worth of mealtimes – about growing old in the same house his mother and grandmother grew old in, the house they were born in, with a view of the barn in which he labored as a young man. And it’s tempting to want that kind of continuity for myself. But if we ever move I will probably learn to love the new place as much as I now love it here. I’m adaptive. It’s the people I’m surrounded by that matter more than my surroundings.