“The House” is a narrative essay I wrote about family and growing closer to them.
I had just begun freshman year and was feeling more anxious than usual. The combination of having to learn through a computer screen mixed with the struggles of geometry was not a good mix. I’m glad my siblings were there. I asked them endless questions about my teachers and my homework because they had been in the exact same shoes before. Adding to my stress, my heart was set on this brownstone on 79th Street. The first time we visited, it was on the first day of “school,” and at first, I was put off by the absence of stairs, a characteristic that all the other houses on the block had. However, when I walked through the brown door and saw the high ceilings and the giant fireplace in the middle of the living room, I immediately fell in love.
The rustic brick walls were bathed in sunlight, bringing the house to life. The real estate agent took us up the creaking steep stairs to the two apartments. They were both adorned with wooden tiles and spacious rooms. They were completely empty, as the owner had been preparing to move out for almost three years. I treaded slowly down the stairs to find the glass door to the garden. It smelled like falling leaves and it was covered in greenery like a blanket draping over a queen bed. I was excited that this could become a reality. It was practically all I could think about all day. The idea of living in Manhattan and being able to take the train for only 15 minutes to school had always been a dream, and now it was within reach.
That month, my family was visiting the Upper West Side frequently. We hadn’t just fallen in love with the house, but also the neighborhood. Townhouses lined each block and it was right next to Central Park. My parents liked nature and taking long walks in nature a lot, so we were always going there. My mom’s patients always gifted her with lobster rolls from Luke’s Lobster, and she realized that the place was so close to the house. It was like heaven.
I talked to my parents, probably more than I ever have before. I had been persistently annoying my dad about this house and my mom laughed along with me because she wanted it, maybe just as much as I did. My siblings also wanted it, but they also came to terms with the possibility that this house may not be ours. They were happy with our house in Astoria and they were okay with not moving. Me, not so much. I think it was because it was my freshman year, and I had so much of high school left, so it was a bigger deal to me. My brother was already in college, so there was no point in him trying to convince my parents to buy the house because the biggest perk was being able to come home to the house on the occasional breaks his college had. My sister would have only had her senior year living in Manhattan, which would’ve been fun, but it would have been a different experience from mine. However, we all wanted it and I think that brought us closer.
We went on long walks as a family and we talked about everything and nothing. I liked it a lot, especially because I was having trouble with being a freshman in an online learning setting which wasn’t exactly an ideal space for social life. I didn’t really have many friends if I am being honest, so I was really leaning on my family as support. The fresh air was really nice, after a long time of not having any. I really looked forward to these days. Maybe it was the park, or the house, or just the family. I remember the sun setting and us discovering a part of the park we never had been to before, which was a really nice time. I think we were all just happy to be there together, although I was pushing for the house every step of the way.
A few weeks go by and life gets busy for my parents. I guess my mom had stopped trying so hard to secure the house, especially because my dad hadn’t been very enthusiastic after a while. After not responding to the real estate agent for a week or two, the house had gone to someone else. To me, this was pretty devastating. I was so sure that we would get this house, one way or the other, and I was really bummed to see it not happen. However, as I reflect on it now, I think that the house made things clear for my family. Even though we didn’t end up getting it, we still took away a lot from it, including a newfound bond that I don’t think I really achieved with my parents before. I felt a lot closer to them than I did and I felt like I could be more open with them.
This piece stemmed from the New York Times’ Tiny Love Stories, which are a few sentences long, but tell a meaningful story. I wrote one as a writing exercise with my mentor, and we ended up using the ideas I wrote in them to create a longer personal essay. I definitely learned more about my love for my family and how it grew through this experience.
Johanna Wu is 15 years old (turning 16 in December!) and the youngest of three siblings from Queens, New York. She is a student at Stuyvesant High School. Her favorite subjects are constantly changing. In her free time, she enjoys dancing at school for performances, texting her friends, and listening to her favorite songs. She also loves to do makeup and try new sandwich combos at her school's nearest deli.