Boston,  Essay,  Life Story

moving city


We are apartment hunting which has me deeply nostalgic for our current apartment even as we live here for a few more months. Reminiscing the present is like writing a greeting card to yourself every morning when you wake up. Things become overwrought with significance.

It was originally our landlord’s idea, but once he suggested it, it felt right to us too. Comparing us to us back at our apartment tour, we now feel just a percentage too big, maybe 15%.

Four years, two infancies in our bedroom, a few rooftop drinks, lots of sleeping-in with light blazing onto our pillows (the eastern reach of the eastern time zone), watching rain fall over the park from the windows, watching the tops of the trees change from flowers to leaves. Actually, much of life lived through the windows, often open on both sides like a railroad car, like a porch you happened to enclose with brick walls and place sixty feet in the air.

Joan helping me in the kitchen, Lux in the bathtub, listening to The Last Battle, the sound of the narrator’s British accent coming through the door over her light splashing.

Lux watching the Hancock Tower’s weather beacon visible from her window and reciting the code to us as if it contained predictive magical powers: “Steady blue, clear view. Flashing blue, clouds due. Steady red, rain ahead. Flashing red, snow instead.”

The mice, a revolving chain of them, heedless of the abrupt disappearance of their elders.”I just saw something scamper in the kitchen, it looked like a bird, but I think it was a mouse.”

Four years with just a bathtub for bathing (such a lovely old fashioned word), fun years where I mentally added shower to the amenities I would enjoy on vacation, even when we were just staying over at a friend’s house for the night.

It’s hard to leave a stage you still love.


Because we still love it, we have become persnickety rental hunters. We have no interest in replicating our space, we want everything we’ve loved so far, but more! Small, quirky, south facing windows, wood burning fireplace, pets welcome, heat & hot water included, washer & dryer, quiet at night, a real patio, wood floors, same fifteen minute commute for Joe. Because this Christmas list continues to be a hopeful prayer of mine I will avoid blasé language, but suffice to say Boston’s rental market is not in the business of making dreams come true.

Around this time of year I often visit friends with yards, kiddie pools, sidewalks, climbing trees, front porches, and extra bedrooms, and I have to stifle my awe of it all. Act natural like them. They shrug at the grandeur, “well, we’re thinking of re-doing the kitchen.” Their children totter from thing to thing, express boredom, ask for snacks. I become overwhelmed by the probability that my children would act the very same way in such circumstances, instead of turning into joyful competitive cyclists or champion swimmers like I secretly imagine.

(that said, I affirm any dissatisfactions with space, no matter how much of it. Having looked at approximately two hundred real estate listings, I believe we can say that space does not equal human comfort–comfort typically found in things like light that pools on the floor, windows that open, hearing your family while you cook, a room looking clean after you’ve cleaned it, the way a wall can expand a room instead of dividing it.

Is it odd or totally natural to experience deep identity crisis with a new home? Why are we as humans always leaning into things to make them who we are. Must your clothes, job, children, home, aspirations, facebook profile remind you of your value?

Naturally the girls hate the idea of moving. Like a loyal friend, they sing the praises of our current space  (“Isn’t it so quiet on this street Mom?”), brush over the negatives or simply don’t see them (“I don’t want to say this out loud around anyone because I might hurt their feelings, but we live on the top floor.”)

You could make the argument that fertility is arranging this need for a new apartment. We have outgrown it. It worked for the 3rd infancy, but with all five of us walking now, it feels clumsy; the enforced minimalism more insistent than we want it to be.

Fertility can seem like a moving walkway that keeps turning me into new things and handing me things–infancy, baby, kindergarten, drop off and pick up, doctors appointments, feeling late a lot, nights on zappos analyzing miniature sandal straps, grocery lists peppered with apples and peanut butter jars, afternoons that begin when I pack the snacks and end with a bowl of tuna fish between us on the floor, me scooping spoonfuls into their mouths.

To some extent I feel like an active participant, in others, like leaving this apartment, I feel like decisions were made by some other creature.



  • Larkin Kipp

    You are such a beautiful writer. Thank you for continuing to share your words and thoughts with us. Blessing to you and Joe on your search for another perfectly imperfect place to raise your beautiful girls.

  • Abbie A

    I love this post! Do you plan on staying in the City? I don’t have children yet, but I already struggle with the…City vs Suburbs conundrum.

    • Rachael

      Thank you! Yes, we do plan to. We’ve built our first community here so it feels natural. As you debate that, keep an eye out for neighborhoods near you that offer a mix of both–good walking and biking, some green space, access to civic things, other families on your street.

      It’s unfortunate (as so many have lamented in a million places) that Boston in getting too expensive, but it’s still an awesome place to live. There are neighborhoods, new to us, on the edges, that are also awesome and would work well once we got to know them.

  • Katharine

    Rachael, I found your blog through your interview on Reading My Tea Leaves and became, in the great tradition of the internet, a regular lurker. But I wanted to come out of hiding today to tell you how much I enjoy your writing. Your beautiful essays on parenthood have been like a gentle, wry friend guiding me through the first eight months of my son’s life, and I am so grateful that you still spend time in this space!

    Good luck with your move; we’re embarking on similar circumstances in Virginia, and finding that perfect space is like unicorn hunting!

    • Rachael

      Thank you for saying so Katharine! Ever since reading Sally Mann I have been in love with Virginia and want to visit some time. It’s intoxicating and exhausting, this hunt for lovely spaces to live in.

  • Una

    Your writing is delicious. What a blessing to be able to put such universal feelings into (oftentimes) hard to find words – and what a blessing that you share it! Sending good vibes for your apartment search.

  • Priscilla

    Rachael, good luck in your apartment hunting. It sounds as if you’ve already hunted a lot. (200 listings?!) I’m sure the perfect apartment for your family is out there. I’m amazed that you can take such a stressful event–uprooting and moving–and write so beautifully about it.

    • Rachael

      There’s so much I like about it (thus the numerous listings)…but yes it’s stressful and uprooting and circular and illogical. Thank you Priscilla!

  • Lindsay

    No doubt that your current apartment is an amazing space. But I’ve always wondered: does the city have code/limitations on 5 people living in such a small space?

    Also: why not buy something vs rent?

    • Rachael

      Yes, the city does. In fact they are pretty generous and in general, Boston has super tenant-friendly laws. We are still legal but right on the line–mostly due to the fact that our kitchen and closet are as big as our bedrooms. Buying right now is tricky. At the least we’d have to commit to 4 or 5 years to work off the taxes and extras fees associated. We’ve settled in an astronomically expensive neighborhood, so we could never buy here, but we can rent. And renting is so luxurious when you don’t know what you want to do with your savings yet (like build a house in Maine someday!)…you can keep saving and enjoy someone else paying the heating bill..

      • Erin

        Preach — this is the reason we rent too, even though we live in a city with tons of affordable housing, we’ve chosen a neighborhood with none 🙂

  • Betsy

    I have so much to say about this subject since my family just sold our house after 13 years in it. I sold because I was afraid I’d live there forever. Maybe it was my mid-life crisis at age 39. Now we are staying with family while we build a new house. Routines have changed so much it feels liked we’ve moved to another country, and we haven’t even left our school district. I miss the school bus the most since driving my kids to school feels like a part time job.

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