Friday, January 15, 2010


When my little family of four (five, counting the dog) moved to Newport, not so long ago in Newport terms, we found a house we liked that was built in 1750. The kids — then actual kids — were horrified.

"Does that mean it'll be all creaky and crooked?" asked the son.

"How do you know it won't fall down?" asked the daughter.

Perfectly good questions ... but Mr. Betty and I paid little attention. We considered the house, in the Point section (the oldest part of town), charming. And we loved the idea that it was built before the American Revolution — how cool is that? Just think. And, on top of all that "charm" that comes with history (old age??), the house had been moved down the street or across town to sit on a new lot/plot at some point. It must be sturdy ... right??

Well, for assorted reasons, that house/home didn't work out — for us, though it is still standing — but it came to mind along with the horror of Haiti this week. The fact is that homes (and hospitals and Parliament buildings and U.N. headquarters) can and do fall down. Terrible things happen. Even to kids. Even on a local scale, even without natural disaster, even without immediate threats of injury and death. Tragedy and homelessness exist ... of course they do. And need. And the need for help. And, occasionally, pieces of Newport's abundant architecture are put to new purpose, such as providing homes for those who don't have one or need help affording one.

I should (but don't) know the history of the apartment facility on the corner of Farewell and Washington Square, but I'm always struck by its detail — so painstakingly complex and beautiful — especially when considered or contrasted with the problems and stories (no less complex or beautiful) of those who live there. The scene in Haiti bears no relation to all this/that ... but I don't know what to do or how to process what's happened/happening other than to contemplate the idea of home, any home, and how complex and beautiful (and basic??) the notion of "home" really is. And to hope that someone/something is looking over us ...