The following post – an exercise in creative writing – is a little way for me to honor my husband, whom I love so much! While architecture walks are an institution for our family no matter our location, this piece particularly hearkens us back to our days in Massachusetts, when we were surrounded by stunning homes, worn with age. Happy valentine’s day, my love!
Straight ahead of me is the red brick I see so often in my dreams. It’s not perfectly new and unworn, but tested by time, and therefore timeless. I’m reminded of my hometown in Pennsylvania – a small but wonderful place outside of our nation’s first capital – idyllic streets lined with colonial styles that make me yearn for a simple life. Tall windows, proper proportions, white lining, and green shudders. All this I take in with just one breath, one deep breath that brings comfort and joy.
“What do you like about it?”
I smile because I knew the question was coming. This is how the games goes. I smile at my husband and look back upon the charming home. He awaits my answer, even though he knows, perhaps better than I can articulate, what arouses my spirit in this moment.
The architecture game is what we call it. While we wait for the time that house hunting is a reality for us, we dream. Leaving the dinner table just in time to catch the golden light that pours a unique shade of beauty onto the earth no matter the season, we stroll.
Him and I walk hand in hand, fingers intertwined as I am lead gently along a new street. Perhaps it was our time of learning to swing dance early on when we had just begin dating, or maybe it is simply a privilege of married life, but I intuitively know where he will lead and every part of me instinctively follows.
We pass by small cottages and large mansions, industrial buildings, and historic institutions. Though sometimes it proves difficult – we have a very distinct aesthetic – we encourage one another to find at least one good feature in all that we pass. Each structure has an element of beauty simply by virtue of being created by man, who is created by beauty himself.
Every now and again, though, we come to a house like this one. This humble brick home. The large bay windows help us to envision the family Christmas tree that will shed a glittering light onto the snow during those short days after the winter solstice. A sweet oval balcony that seems to be made for sipping coffee and reading the paper on an early summer morning. We acknowledge the proper placement of the chimney in the middle of the roof, which allows for a more equitable distribution of heat throughout the structure during the inevitable bitter months. And I see the front door and realize that it will remain incomplete until I place upon it a simple boxwood wreath.
Some of these points we discuss, others are unspoken, but well understood, between me and my husband. And while we look upon the home and see a delightful future for ourselves, it is the house itself that acts almost like a reflection.
Here we are, in the latter part of our twenties, and we are still just beginning. We often work hard for what seems like minimal payoff. It can be so easy to gaze upon a neighbor’s admirable vinyl home and resent the path we’ve chosen. For them, vinyl brings to life their hopes and dreams; our vision requires that we continue with clay, refined by fire. But when we stand here, together, gazing upon this hidden treasure in this somewhat unfamiliar city to us both, we are reminded that our hardships are not for naught.
Made from the earth, brick is a natural material that has proven itself over the centuries. It offers greater protection from harsh elements such as fire, wind, and water. It is far more sustainable and requires less maintenance as time goes on. And yet, brick is not as commonly used today in the building of the standard mcmansion. It requires a heavier investment. It may call for patience and a willingness to delay our gratification. And to have an authentically beautiful result, there must be careful planning and a strong vision.
Just like the process of a good house, we are building a firm foundation. The days that seem to drag on with financial stress, marital burdens, and general life malaise are the ones in which we are placing those bottom bricks. We develop a rhythm, a technique, and we can, at some point, start to see the fruits of our labor. Day in and day out, it is easy to miss the forest through the trees. But when we step back and take it all in, we catch a glimpse of something great that is already under way. It starts to resemble the sketches both in our hearts and on paper.
And so, we walk this evening, we share our vision, and we lay our bricks.
As our apartment building comes into view, and our hands still held, we share a gentle kiss knowing that another brick is in place.