Friday, June 5, 2009

The life you want

Yesterday, I had lunch with Liza, a writer friend who lives in Atlanta (what bliss), and we started talking about the unexpected shape our lives had taken.  I always knew I wanted to be a writer and I am very grateful I was able to make that part happen.  But  I began to think how funny it was that I grew up never wanting children (my mother used to tell me to never tell anyone that because they would surely think there was something wrong with me), never wanting to get married, and certainly never wanting anything domestic. I was a free spirit in a Manhattan shoebox, with yogurt and bread in my refrigerator and no dishes that matched and when people said, "You could so a lot with this apartment," I just laughed.  Of course I had serious boyfriends--I wanted love, if not marriage, and I am appalled to say that I actually once told someone Manhattan would be better if there less kids in it. (What was I thinking? That would be a city I would not want to live in!)

In my twenties, I married-a horrible first marriage, but we had such separate lives that it was not so traumatic to me to be part of a couple.  We lived in an apartment and I never cooked--or cooked very badly, and when the marriage broke up, I fled.

Enter my thirties.  Maybe biology kicked in.  Maybe I changed.  Maybe I just grew up.  Suddenly, I started noticing babies everywhere, and to my great surprise, I could not look away.  Suddenly, I wanted a child.  I fell in love and married--happily this time, and could not wait to have a child.  But Jeff wanted a home, first.  We couldn't afford the three or four bedroom we would need in Manhattan (we both needed home offices), so we looked in Brooklyn and Hoboken at the then affordable brownstones and brickstones.  And we found one! But I couldn't call it a house.  Not then. And the thought of leaving Manhattan--even to be 10 minutes and one subway stop away-- was crushing.

Of course, things changed.  Our refrigerator is filled with food from Whole Foods or Garden of Eden.  I love my house (there, I said it), and I love being a mother so much, I wish I had done it years earlier and had a whole houseful of children.  My son is the most profound experience of my life. I love being a wife! My life is domestic--the one thing I thought I would never want--and now the one thing I DO want. When I wrote about this for a glossy magazine, the editor phoned me, distressed, and said it was "too pathological a piece for her readers, too upsetting."  I was a little taken aback, but then I thought, well, it must have gotten to her a little for her to call me to want to talk about it, right?

Sitting with Liza yesterday in Sweet, my fave cupcake shop, we watched a bevy of little girls dressed up in costume. We both talked to them and their moms and watched them choosing cupcakes.  We talked about our homes and our husbands and our work, and I felt this pure happiness.  Who would have thought this would be me?


Jacqueline Carney said...

Hi Caroline,

Your post reminded me that when I got married I wanted children...but only boys. I had grown up with 5 younger brothers and one sister who I saw, for the first twenty years, as competition. Now, thirty six years later, my sister is one of my best friends and I have three daughters I wouldn't trade for the world! So much for goal setting.

Caroline said...

It's just amazing how things change, isn't it? Three girls! How wonderful!

Clea Simon said...

What a wonderful post!!

What's with that editor, though? Sheesh. So glad you are happy!

Gina Sorell said...

Beautiful post Caroline! Here's to the life you...have! xo

io saturnalia! said...

I smiled when I read your admission that you love your house. I've recently been struggling with the sense that I've sacrificed my bohemian bona fides on the altar of a new custom kitchen, replete with granite counter-tops and matching stainless-steel appliances, in our little Cape here in the Merrimack Valley.

It's a bitter pill to swallow, but at least I can wash it down with ice water from the freezer door's dispenser.

Caroline Leavitt said...

Jo, that is so funny. Place is really a mindset. You can be the coolest bohemian around in your Cape Cod house!