Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Manhattan Classic Six

A friend asked me today whether there was much difference having four children as opposed to three. My inital reaction was to say that, in general, the really big change was going from zero children to one child. It was double team (two parents, one child), then man-to-man coverage (two parents, two children), then finally zone defense (two parents, more than two children). So from that perspective, four is not really different than three, because it is a group at work rather than pairings.

In the specific case of Manhattan, however, having four children makes a big difference. It's no longer possible to all fit in one cab, for example (at least legally or safely). And in the trade-offs one makes in Manhattan apartments (e.g., "I'll take light and give up some space" or "closer to Central Park but no doorman", etc.), there are additional factors to now consider. There is the obvious need for bedroom space (we stack 'em up two per room, which works), but less obvious is that there needs to be a pretty large dining space as well as living space. Finally, anytime one leaves the city, a minivan is now required. And gosh, have the car rental people figured out that people who really need a minivan are ready to pay for it, about twice as much.

It's been a little surprising to learn how unusual having a family of six in the city. In fact, what was once a quite normal family size is considered unusual now, perhaps even grotesque by some. Herself and I are both the youngest of five children, and are used to the reaction of "wow, five kids" over the course of our life. I would say that four is the new five, in terms of folks thinking we have produced many progeny.

The non-statistical, non-financial, non-real estate answer is that a fourth child, and our fourth child in particular, is a great blessing indeed.

(The video link shows a good facsimile of our routine at 6:30am).

The Wisdom of Carole King

"Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna make it home again" - Carole King, Home Again.

This song always moved me when I heard it sung by the Trinity Pipes a cappella group at my college as an undergraduate. It has a lot of wisdom in the longing to be home again, and "feelin' right". This came up in my own thinking today as some errands took our family back to Connecticut, where we lived the past five years until moving to Manhattan. There was a sense of homecoming for Herself and myself in moving to the city, because it is where we courted. Indeed, on a walk in the Ramble in Central Park a couple of weeks ago, we pointed out to the children where we were engaged (by the pond near Bethesda fountain -- I almost fell in the water, but that's a topic for another day).

In any case, besides our oldest daughter who has shadowy memories of England, where she and her sister were born, home for our kids meant Connecticut. It was upsetting to them to be there but not in our old house, even as they enjoyed the company of friends.

Two thoughts come to mind: first, that an effect of wandering has left me less tied to a place than I might otherwise be. And I don't know if it is coincidental or not, but my own interests in faith, theology and bible study have increasingly included heaven as integral. Or rather, the new creation. Second, and not to be morose, but I wonder if where we wish to be buried after we die is a revealing means to consider where home really is in this life. That is, where we want our physical remains situated (at least, what city, if one has moved around as I have) might show where home really feels. It's not very catchy, but maybe home is where the funeral is?

But Carole King is right in singing about the people she longs to be with at home. One of the kids said today that she wanted to live in our old house in the future -- buy it back. (We still own it, another post's topic!) I felt the same way when my family home was sold -- the only one I'd known until age 17. But driving by there some years afterwards, it was no longer home, and the desire ebbed. Because the people who made it home were no longer there. So yes to particular places being special, but in a certain fundamental way, I would have to say we can't really go home again.