Real Estate News

My First Home: As new mom in NYC, this was my place in the sun

During the waning days of my 20s, I had a love affair with an apartment building.

Dean Stuart for The Boston Globe

During the waning days of my 20s, I had a love affair with an apartment building.

Perched on a hill on the northern tip of Manhattan, the object of my affection was a sixth-floor unit in a complex of Tudor buildings built in the 1920s, a few blocks from the blue expanse of the Hudson River.

I loved the creaky floors and the vintage bathtub and the twisty metal knobs on our white kitchen cabinets. I loved the slate rooftops, awash in gray and purple. I loved the rows of hedge-lined gardens, where old ladies congregated on benches amid the flowers. I loved, with a secret sense of joy, the windowless slice of a second bedroom that would be the perfect size for a crib. I loved the shouts of children playing in the park across the street. I even loved the old-fashioned elevator that was often out of service.


But above all, I loved the glossy black-handled casement windows. They stretched nearly from floor to ceiling, filling the place with abundant light from dawn until dusk. In New York City, this was no small thing. In the morning, I would watch the burning orange sun rise above the outlines of buildings in the distance. At twilight, I would arrive home and ascend above the din of the city and breathe a sigh of relief.

I got married, and we spent nearly two sun-dappled years in the apartment. Then, in early autumn, I learned we were expecting. Still, I wasn’t concerned about space — we had the perfect little nursery. The apartment might even accommodate two children, I reasoned with the optimism of the infatuated as my husband rolled his eyes.

As it turned out, the baby started to ruin the place before she even left the womb. She arrived in the middle of a languorous heat wave that turned our apartment, with its lovely large windows, into a furnace. Weeks before she was born, we shut out the light with heavy drapes and installed an air-conditioning unit in a living room window, which necessitated the removal of several panes of glass and became a hulking eyesore. Babies, we were told, require cool temperatures and darkness in order to sleep.


But the baby hardly slept at all. Slowly, the quaint idiosyncrasies of our aging abode began to lose their charm.

The beloved windows became a source of anxiety, as I imagined her crawling on the couch and tumbling out of them. My unobstructed view of the rising sun, once a secret I shared with the city, became a taunt: The sun was up, and still I had not slept.

The communal laundry room down the block suddenly felt as if it belonged in a different ZIP code. The hilly streets, once reminiscent of Europe, were a maze from which we could not escape, unable to park our newly acquired car. Stranded alone with a newborn, the remoteness of our medieval castle within a metropolis conjured the pang of isolation.

When the baby was a few months old, the building refused to renew our lease, and we moved: first to a larger apartment in Queens and then to a leafy suburb of Boston, where we still reside in a bigger, quieter apartment, now a family of four. There is plenty of light here, and the laughter of children often wafts in from the street.

But, sometimes, I close my eyes and recall my heady affair with the most perfect apartment I’ll ever inhabit. The magic of my revisionist memory, like the sight of the New York skyline, still makes my heart skip a beat with longing.


Meghan Barr is an editor at E-mail comments to [email protected] or tweet her @meghanbarr. Send a 550-word essay on your first home to [email protected]. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at


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