It was the window that decided it, approximately 30 seconds after we walked into the open house. This place just had to be home. The window promised a living space drenched in natural light, books read in the sill while the breeze blew curtains, and a giant Christmas tree twinkling merrily for all to see. We moved in the weekend of DC’s epic snowstorm and stood in the window watching snow swirl outside. A new home.I stood at the window a lot that spring. Watching the world change outside and imagining our world about to change inside those walls. We brought Henry home just as summer started, setting his bassinet as close to the window as we could get it so the sun would kiss his jaundice skin and the breeze would cool him when the AC broke. We would sit in the window and I would wave his chubby baby fist at James as he took the bus to work each day, excited about the day that tiny baby would wave back. And Christmas came, and lights twinkled, and who has time to read books in window sills? And no breeze ruffled the curtains because of course we kept the window shut so the wild ginger baby who was crawling, pulling, walking, climbing, wouldn’t fall out of it in his enthusiasm to wave goodbye to James as he let for work. Instead we sat in the window together as Henry said his first words, exalting in his adamic task of naming everything in the world. BUS and CAR and TRUCK, yelled excitedly all day long from the a toddler who was teaching us how to be parents. Then one day, almost exactly 2 years after the first, another bassinet in the window with another baby sleeping inside. And all over again it began, the learning to be parents, to navigate siblings, to expand our hearts and minds when our sanity and energy and time seemed to shrink. That little apartment was such a safe space for the learning, and a crucible for it too, all of us crammed together as we learned what togetherness meant.The space in front of the window was coveted real estate in our home. It had the uncarpeted floors perfect for train tracks or cars, the flowing curtains that draped perfectly over chairs to form caves and forts, the right distance from parents working in the kitchen to offer independence and security. And always, a constant view of the city outside to entertain and delight. When we decided to leave the window, it was because we kept feeling like the lack of space, the lack of lawn, the lack of storage, the complicated exit, the limited bathrooms — all of these pressures were combining to make James and I feel like we were no longer setting our kids up for success in the space we loved. Kids can thrive anywhere, but parents- not always. So many times I found myself frustrated with my kids only to realize I was actually frustrated at the limitations of our physical space. We had purged all that could be purged, organized what could be saved, and still, we felt stuck. When I think about our first apartment, I think about it as the space where James and I learned to be married, to extend grace and hospitality and become a solid unit. That second apartment? It’s where we learned how to be parents, and frankly, leaving it feels like stepping into a new style of parenting. We are still in DC, but further from a metro. We take the car lots of places instead of endlessly loading up the stroller and walking, riding public transport and strategizing to stay out as much as possible. We have a yard now, and a basement, and a home that we don’t have to leave as much to avoid losing our mind. This is absolutely wonderful. But also feels daunting, has me asking myself who I am as a parent when I don’t have to be a certain way.
Every morning that I wasn’t taking the kids to childcare on my own way to work, it was a mandatory thing: Henry, Etta, and I all gathered in the window to wave goodbye to James and stayed there until he got on his bus. We waved until the bus pulled out of site, a family united on either side of that window. Sometimes I would start to miss it, distracted by a million little tasks, brought back by Henry LOSING IT over our whole family not participating in the sacred farewell ritual. For him, at the very core of what it means to be us is that moment where we all gather and wave and start missing each other the very second we are apart.
James doesn’t take the bus anymore, and we don’t have a portal into his commute. We aren’t entertained all day by a procession of cars, trucks, and busses. But the first morning that he left for work in the new house, Henry went running through the upstairs, hurled himself up on his [new big boy] bed and started screaming for me to come. I was in the process of putting Etta down for a nap, but I dragged myself back and crawled up next to him. We leaned over the bed and looked out into the street, frantically waving until James looked up before driving off and we could all start missing each other the very second we are apart.
Henry reminds me that you can always find another window.