Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid
Ever since learning that saying, it replays in my head constantly. I use it to remind myself to have patience, that good things come with diligent work, that I can build my nest, even though it may take awhile.
Feeling at home is important to me, at least theoretically. Ever since I moved out of my parents’ house six years ago, I’ve packed up and moved my life and belongings to new places nine times. That’s a lot! Some of the places I lived were nicer, some were shabbier. None truly felt like a home.
Our first NYC apartment was a sort of awkward cluster of rooms and appliances in a building that seemed to be a only a few years from a demolition. It was affordable and it provided all the basic necessities, but it was also depressing and uncomfortable. Ugly, cheap tile floors, laminate counters, leaky ceilings, a broken window – it was constantly and inexplicably filthy. We wound up quarantining ourselves in the bedroom, the only room we could heat or cool effectively, chain-watching movies on Netflix and burrowing under the bedcovers, trying to forget about constantly intruding stressors and counting time.
There were some good things, too. Everyone at the (sort of grimy) local grocery knew who I was and I’d always get roped into a brief chat or two when I went out for eggs and milk, or I’d overhear an entertaining exchange. We went out for coffee and breakfast specials on the weekends, at a homely, fluorescent-lit diner, with vinyl-covered chairs and posters of The Godfather and Sinatra on the walls. The coffee was always delicious and we’d always leave a generous tip. I liked seeing alcoved statues of Mary and Joseph in carefully-kept front gardens, fig trees crammed into a couple free square feet of earth, and seriously elaborate, irony-free decorative schemes for each and every holiday.
We laid low in our old apartment, denied ourselves many costly pleasures, exhausted every day from the effort of trying — and we wound up doing well.
Well enough that we were free to move somewhere much lovelier, a place I barely feel like I deserve. We moved in two weeks ago, arranging our paltry furniture as attractively as possible, then soaking in the sunshine, the dust mites, the old bones of the building.
Our new apartment is full of light, on the top floor, with a breeze flowing through it. Through our bedroom windows there is a view of the Narrows, a sparkling and lively passage of water that leads container ships and pleasure yachts toward the ports of Manhattan. Our neighborhood is quieter, cleaner, more genteel than our old one, although that’s a strange word to describe anywhere this deep in Brooklyn.
The kitchen in our new apartment is enormous and comes with sturdy granite countertops, a big, old stove, a deep sink, and three walls of solid wood cabinetry. I can’t wait to start cooking delicious delicacies.
Everything in our new apartment is beautiful and the neighborhood is generously replete with nice restaurants and bakeries and cafés and little stores to poke around and we even have a delicious little chocolatier 1 block away, and really it’s too, too much.
I feel a little guilty about how happy and relaxed I feel, since I know other people are suffering and will never be as lucky as me. I can’t shake the deep-seated anxiety that the next nasty surprise is right around the corner. My good house fortune is mixing with my career anxieties and it’s all a big, electric mess in my stomach.
I am (cautiously) in love with my new apartment and my beautiful new neighborhood. I want to stay here awhile, a year at least, but maybe more, and turn it into a warm and cozy nest for me, my boyfriend, and our dog. I hate that part of that homey feeling is wrapped up in the acquisition of material goods, but that *is* a big part of feeling comfortable, and to that end, I want to buy: 2 rugs, a sturdy bedframe, bedside tables, a chair for the bedroom desk, more seating for the living room, curtains, and many more beautifully covetous things.
Ugh, but do we need those things? Isn’t love enough? Why weigh ourselves down with more useless stuff to lug around? I suppose it’s only worth it if I invest in beautiful things, art. More than anything, I want to feel content, at home, in love, inspired. I will get to work on this like an industrious little bird, and little by little, I’ll make my nest.