On Thursday afternoon the light in my apartment was so enticing I wanted to take pictures of everything. The textures of the cotton fabric, the embroidery, the chenille of the armchair, the billowing curtains in the window breeze and the plant on the nearby radiator cover caught the light in ways that made me want to touch them, and to capture them with my camera.

My home is not extravagant, or exotic, or terribly impressive in any way. I am lucky to be in homes which are, was in one last night for dinner which made me feel that I had travelled to wonderland. I share my home with children, whose parents pay me to take care of them, often to the surprise of the children, who will ask me with earnestness what is that piece of paper in my hand, check traveling from home to me in backpack, payment for their care.

I think a lot about the comfort and beauty and texture of home versus the comfort and beauty and texture of school. When I see a child at the end of a long school day settle into a soft armchair in my living room to read a book, it makes me happy and sad. In my mind’s eye, I can always see the child who is sitting on the school cafeteria stools doing homework at the very same time, part way across town. When I see the cotton fibers close up, with small birds embroidered upon them, I think of my good friend, who gave me those pillow covers because I had the lamp shades to match and of her house and how much more beautiful it is than mine, her artistic eye and hand have made it a place I just love to be.

The house I was in last night was incredibly rich in beauty and design, made so by it’s inhabitants, who have laid mosaic tile in original designs all along the floors and walls, particularly of the bathrooms, the most intimate and beautiful spaces I could have imagined, and who have collected art from many cultures, fabrics, furniture, rugs, figures, prints, hand made things of beauty from around the world arranged in a way that makes them right at home in the interior life of a family in Somerville whose home would be hard to imagine from the street, even with its purple siding standing out against the bricks and gray and colonial yellows nearby.

So, this morning I wake up thinking about transformation and particularity, about privilege and what that means, about comfort and beauty and texture, and what place those needs, and I will say needs, have in our lives, in our homes, in our schools, and in our child care programs.

My home upstairs has a color scheme, curtains, furniture, rugs, dishes, that feel like home. There are collections of things that have been handed down through family, given to us as gifts, or collected by us over time from travel, yard sales, sales racks, beaches and woods, arranged behind glass doors, on tabletops, in cupboards, on windowsills. We have house plants, vases, American Girl dolls, playmobil castles, Magic Cards, all kinds of things somewhat forbidden or ignored in our downstairs apartment, which is a day care space, and which has slowly, if surely evolved from a place much more like school or child care center, with almost no soft furniture, white walls and shelves of children’s toys and equipment, child-sized wooden and plastic furniture, to a place with a bit more softness and color, and adult or real life stuff, couches and chairs and a love seat in upholstered fabric, collected off curbs, from yard sales and neighbors and LL Bean, a rug from Crate and Barrel, glass and ceramic dishes from Goodwill, yard sales, IKEA and my upstairs kitchen replacing plastic baby dishes, flowers entering gradually, the only plants that stays more than a week are two stalks of bamboo who continue to thrive since their arrival in a holiday bouquet from families, rooted in water in a tall and heavy crystal glass vase that was a wedding gift to me and my ex-husband from someone I can’t now remember.

Somehow, the softer and more homelike the place gets, the more privileged I feel, and the more distant from the worlds of public school, traditional school, institutional child care, and I wonder, does this comfort separate us in ways that are unfair, that limit us in some way, is it wrong to live in a place of comfort and beauty, to invite children into my home for child care, for after school,for summer care, for homeschooling, to wish for the day care space to feel more like home, less like an institution? Is it fine as long as it is for child care or summer care or after school care, but would it be wrong for school?

I find myself moving between many worlds, wanting to know what is fair and right. Maybe I can’t. Probably I can’t. Still I need to try.

The private school my two boys attend is a comfortable, beautiful, textural place. As one day care mom said in our day care kitchen this week as we talked about school and schooling and homeschooling and private and public and family options. “Why does it have to cost 20,000 for children to be allowed time outdoors to run and play and to be happy and healthy?” Or something close to that. Their school doesn’t cost nearly that much, and I wanted to say that, but it costs enough that I didn’t bother. It separates us still from those who sit on hard chairs and play on asphalt rather than climb trees and roll in grass. Which many kids in the suburbs or the country do, the mom pointed out. But that seems not to be the solution, either, moving to the suburbs, at least for us, that doesn’t create a new equality or comfort or engage us in a way that feels sustaining.

I thought of Deborah Meier and her comparison of compulsory schooling to prison.

I thought of the readership of this blog, and how it is declining, and I wondered if I have gone off the deep end, become irrelevant to most of the world, in my little corner of privilege, comfort, home/school wanderings into ideas of beauty, freedom, love.

I thought of my sister and of her asking me if I was still comfortable in public school settings.

I thought of another parent whose child is leaving the pubic school system and his remark that there is nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t a good fit.

I thought of the discussion after dinner last night in which my sons and I and our hosts and the other dinner guests debated various forms of schooling, and of Deborah Meier’s description of not being able to find the right words to communicate about the things most important to her in education when she is in a place where people don’t share her views.

I thought of myself and how hard it is to do things unless I believe in them, and of the difficulty I find in working in places where my beliefs don’t align with the mainstream, where I am told my way is wrong.

Sunday morning luxury, to take the time to have and write these thoughts, more privilege, before I am off to Whole Foods to buy food and maybe flowers for my family and the day care, before I take my child to the parade where he will play his rented saxophone, which he has learned to play in his public school, before I pack the car and drive my van and my children to our place in the country, where we will bike and read and swim and eat delicious local food, before I drift away into yet another world of comfort, beauty, and texture of the rural variety, city life, country life, isolation, community, ever widening or ever shrinking circles of connections, have I just dropped the pebble in the pond and are the circles expanding, or has the pebble sunk to the bottom and are the circles disappearing, don’t know, don’t know, don’t know.

Which in itself is a place to be.

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