"We always have the best candy, don't you think, Mommy?" Lilly asked me wistfully three years ago. Seven at the time, all pinky-glowing skin and downy dimples, she sat on the floor up to her elbows in Hershey's Kisses.
I agreed with her. We did have the best candy. And, for some reason, that gave me immeasurable pleasure. Not because I was in competition with my neighbors, but because it somehow symbolized all of the particular sweetnesses of this period. And nothing made me feel safer than raising my children in this tiny enclave of Brooklyn. The neighborhood sang a tranquil lullaby that rocked any anxieties to sleep. Perhaps it is human nature not to remember that the simple line "rockabye baby" is followed inexorably by "the cradle will fall." And even though so many of our nursery rhymes and lullabies describe this fall—when the bough breaks, when London Bridge fell down, when Humpty Dumpty took a great fall, when Jack fell down the hill—I had no sense of foreboding that I, too, would come tumbling after. Our lives were simple, simply "enormous bliss." These words were written by John Milton to describe Adam and Eve's life in Eden before the fall from grace. The poem Paradise Lost has acted as a touchstone for me for years. It is Milton's masterpiece, an extended retelling of the story of Genesis—Adam and Eve's lives in the Garden of Eden, their temptation, fall from grace, and eventual punishment. In contrast to the story as narrated in the Bible, Milton lingered in Eden, that "wilderness of sweets," lavishly expanding the description of Adam and Eve's lives before the fall for thousands of lines of poetry, and I finally understand why: it was just too lovely there for him to leave.
And too lovely in my own paradise for me ever to want to leave. I cherished home as much for my children and husband as for myself. Our lovely house, part Edith Wharton age of elegance, part mold and sagging disarray, allows for privacy and a sense of community. We live vertically: a parlor and dining floor for everyone, the second floor for Eric and me, the third floor for the children, and an overgrown garden of ivy and peonies for our dog. If I peek out of my front door, I am surrounded by intimate friends and wellknown acquaintances. I never have to worry about forgetting some seemingly innocuous but critical detail in the children's lives—a chorus rehearsal or parents' night at their school. I can count on my network of girlfriends to remind me. This intricate web of support, even in the years before I truly needed and relied on it, was one of the sweetnesses of my life that I most savored.