David & I are working with a designer, Susan Covell, to redecorate our living room. I'll provide more specifics in a later post. I've been thinking about furniture and design a lot lately, and I hesitate to admit that in some ways I have become my mother, who is truly attached to her home. I have become more attached to my home as years have gone by. We bought the house in December 2003, and have completely gutted and replaced the kitchen; finished the basement to make a guest room, bath, music room and laundry closet. We've also moved and completely redone the upstairs bathroom, and replaced all of the upstairs doors with lovely five-panel doors. This is in addition to smaller improvements like interior and exterior painting.
As David & I have customized our house more to our liking, my fondness for it has grown, but that alone does not explain the new-found passion I feel for it. I've experienced a shift in how I view my life and my home. I used to see this house as the best house we could afford in our area, and the way station until we moved somewhere else different, bigger. I've come to plan to stay in this home, because I hate moving, but more importantly because this house genuinely has a lot of charm. I lack self-confidence in general, and that doesn't exclude the arena of home decorating, so I'm so grateful to the litany of really classy, stylish, more sophisticated people who have said to me, "Do you know what a gem this house is? It is good and could be fabulous." They have helped build my confidence, which I think is also just increasing with age; the older I get the more I trust myself and my taste.
I now view my home as my nest, my safe place. I've embraced that I hate traveling, and that I want to spend as much time at home as possible. Therefore, I want to invest in it properly and decorate with an eye toward longevity. I'd like quality furniture and art that will serve us well over time, and that we'll continue to love. I'm excited our living room renovation is giving us a chance to do this.
Concerning the shift in my attitude toward my home, I see another significant factor at work: as the years fly by and most of my friends have left (or are planning to leave) the city for far more spacious and affordable homes in the suburbs, I have become keenly aware of how much I would hate to live in those areas. I used to think that my distaste was limited to the Maryland burbs where Orthodox Jews settle in our area (a prerequisite for our religious observance), but I've realized that I just don't like suburbs in general, anywhere; let me be clear that I do not mean "suburbs" like Alexandria, VA, which is in itself a small little city, where people can live and walk to commercial spaces and have ample access to public transit. My distaste is for the areas where you have to get in your car to access commerce and recreation. Sorry to sound so dramatic, but I feel like my soul is muted when I have to spend more than a few hours in the burbs. I long for the safe, enclosed feeling of my neighborhood, and I long for the safety of sidewalks. I miss the noise (I remember growing up in a single-family home in Memphis and thinking, "If anyone killed us, no one is close enough to hear us scream." BTW, according to my definition above, Memphis is a suburb).
Furthermore, I view the burbs as the complete antithesis of what I love about city life, which has actually morphed into my values. For example, I recoil at the idea of living in a place where I have to get into my car to run errands. The costs of over-dependence on cars are environmental ruin and physical decline, since running errands in the suburbs only requires walking from the house to the garage. I love that I walk to my dry cleaners, grocery store, pharmacy, pet store, gym, library, Kacy's veterinarian, and several neighborhood gift stores that I patronize.
Another example of how my values and location are synergistic is diversity and inclusion. I love that we do not live in an area almost completely surrounded by other Jews. I recognize the importance of Jewish community, yet have never liked the ghetto mentality of living in a predominately Jewish neighborhood. I love that my neighbors are black, Asian, gay, bi-racial, and that our block has so many different types of families on it. I loved our block's holiday party, which was actually a floating party: you started at one house and went to another for the whole night. I acknowledge that I don't live in the most diverse neighborhood on earth, but I would miss even this level of diversity. There are certainly different types of people and families in the burbs, but my Jewish friends who live there seem to have little to do with their non-Jewish neighbors.
I understand that the suburbs are a good choice for some other people, and that in many ways their qualities of life can improve, like not spending two hours driving their kids to Jewish schools or being close to a kosher market. They're just not for me, and I'm thankful that David is like-minded. If anything, he's more rabid than I am. I'd take a condo in the city over a manse in the suburbs any day. I write a gratitude list every night with at least five things that I'm grateful for. Living in the neighborhood that I live in is often on that list.
This post took me three days to write.