I was apartment-shopping with Daughter Francesca when I realized that the sort of apartment that appeals to a mom is a lot different from the one that appeals to a daughter.
Here is what she wants: pretty.
Here is what I want: security.
Here is what she wants: charm.
Here is what I want: a doorman.
Here is what she wants: sunlight.
Here is what I want: a moat.
I thought we needed a better-managed building, and we rent an apartment together. She lives in it all the time, and I use it when I go to New York to see the opera or on business. To be honest, I don't have tons of "business" in New York. By "business," I mean "make up excuses to see my kid."
Not monkey business, mother business.
Hotels in Manhattan are crazy expensive, and I like to check Francesca out without checking in, if you follow.
What I do is trump up some afternoon meeting with my publisher, or whoever else will meet with me. Sometimes, nobody will. In fact, the next time you're in the city, let me know. I'll meet with you. Then I'll use the meeting as an excuse to spend three days with Francesca, spying.
I mean, er, visiting.
That's the thing about kids. They can run, but they can't hide. And sometimes, they can't even run. Francesca is fast, but she's not fast enough. I'm the Runaway Bunny of Mothers.
Call it being a good mom.
Either way, we found ourselves in New York, standing inside a perfect box of an apartment, located in a perfect box of a building, situated behind a fence of wrought iron topped with sharp points.
For impaling bad guys.
If you saw The Omen, you knew that already.
Plus it had a doorman with a desk, and hopefully an automatic weapon.
In other words, Mommy wanted to sign the lease, but Daughter was less eager. "It's not charming," she said.
"The doorman is charming," said I. "And a good shot."
"Don't you think the apartment is kind of - corporate?"
"Absolutely. Your point is?"
Francesca looked around at the other residents. "There's not many people my age."
Of course she was right about that. The place could have qualified as a retirement home, which appealed to me immediately, as I intend to retire any year now, though that year has recently been pushed back to 3017.
Still, I preferred to accentuate the positive, so I told her, "Think of it as having a lot of substitute mothers. If you ever have a question about whether to preheat the oven, you can ask almost anyone."
Francesca was still frowning. "And it's kind of expensive."
"True, but you're worth every penny, and I won't have another daughter. The shop's closed, as you may know."
She looks unamused.
"No go, huh?"
"It's the prettiest office I ever saw."
I understand her point of view, secretly. When I was her age, I probably wanted all the things she wants, but I don't remember back that far.
So we walked a few blocks east and found ourselves standing inside a second apartment, a dressed-down affair with exposed brick and its own counterculture courtyard, with colorful Tibetan prayer flags. I know they're Tibetan prayer flags because I saw them once in a movie with Brad Pitt.
I myself am praying for Brad Pitt.
Anyway, back at the second apartment, guitar music wafts through the air, from a resident hippie, and the bedroom has a skylight that blasts sun everywhere.
"Yuck," I say.
Francesca turns around, surprised. "Ma, this place is great!"
"You can't sleep with all that horrible brightness. Also somebody could come through the skylight."
I sense she isn't taking me seriously, though I get it. The sagging floorboards, the gloppy paint job, and the crooked windowsills add up to character, and the only good thing about character is that it costs less.
I know this because I'm back in our current character-filled apartment, which is cheaper, and I'm parked sweating in front of a fan.
Character doesn't have central air.
But I will, in 3017.