This is my favorite country song-of-the-moment, "House that Built Me." It's a beautiful story of a woman returning to the house she grew up in, trying to reconnect with the person she knew herself to be. It's haunting, and has left me thinking about the importance of place.
To any friends who know us, it's not surprise that Michael & I struggle with the best location to raise our family. We both grew up in Virginia, just outside DC, in suburban communities very different from the urban streets we roam now. Michael lived blocks from his grandparents, visiting with them almost daily. His house was on a cul-de-sac, with a sun room and fenced-in back yard. My house growing up was within walking distance of a little lake and a swimming pool, where my brother and all of our friends spent our summer days. Michael & I were surrounded by family and trees and lawns and green. We lived on streets where summer nights meant crickets and fireflies and barbecue. When we were growing up, we could spend evenings out with friends, drive around listening to music day and night. We could meet friends at church, spend time together in restaurants or at movie theaters without adults. We grew up in a place where freedom and youth found a healthy balance. These... safe, comforting, lush communities shaped who Michael and I have become. They gave us ambition and drive, and also romance and hope and self awareness. "The House that Built Me" reminds me of the best characteristics of these neighborhoods and leaves me wondering where we should be raising our daughter.
Don't get me wrong - New York is an amazing city and it offers a great deal for raising families. The obvious elements (diversity, culture) are actually less profound to me than the overlooked ones (sustainable living, visible reminders of why we should be helping the poor). But it is also incredibly challenging to find the right balance, to keep kids independent while keeping them safe, to protect them from cynicism while encouraging them to grow up aware of their environments.
Maybe I'm in a dreamy haze about my childhood. Maybe, like the song suggests, I'm trying to find a part of myself that I may have lost - a more innocent and less jaded self. But really I think I'm just wrestling with how Michael & I can provide the best for our children.
"But when she stepped off the train in New York, her plain little face looked beautiful for a moment, as if the future were opening before her and its glow were already upon her forehead, as if she were eager and proud and ready to meet it..."