“What is it that I want?”
Jane Van Galen asked herself this question after reading a gushing profile of an “island cabin” in the Seattle Times. It begins: “Lots of folks have lots of reasons for wanting their own piece of land out of town” and quotes one of the new cabin’s owners who, when pregnant, came to realize: “I can’t raise a child just in the city.... I wanted woods, salamanders and pileated woodpeckers.”
She and her husband “went right out,” bought nine acres on an island, and built this:
Writing at her site, Education and Class, Van Galen processed her reaction to this article. She added up the costs, figuring that the owners spent close to a million dollars. “I knew that my unease,” she wrote, “was not just straightforward jealously.” So, what did she want?
She knew what she did not want:
Narratives in which the wealthy are held up as model parents who upon hearing of the dangers of the modern world, “go right out” to provide acres of weekend woods for their children; narratives that invite us to admire their paint colors and beautiful windows and solid black granite bathtub without asking too many questions about how it is that relatively young parents can ensure that their child has access to acres of his own private salamanders, and especially not to ask too many questions about how all children might have room to grow and thrive....
She wanted, “for once,” to hear wealthy people just admit they’re rich—for whatever reason—instead of framing their decision to build a vacation home as simply what any good parent would do.
“I love having this for my son,” the owner is quoted. But Van Galen wants to know: What about everyone else’s children?