In response to Max Levy’s essay “House Arrest,” featured in the November/December issue of Texas Architect. Brantley Hightower speaks to his experience working from home during the pandemic.
The view from my window is both vivid and inviting. As I turn away from the Zoom meeting on my computer screen, I notice a flock of birds take flight as they flee in abject terror from my youngest daughter who is chasing them whilst wearing nothing but her underwear and a single sock on her right foot.
As I rise to investigate, my other daughter bursts into the room. A glitch in our internet connection has prematurely ended her fifth-grade math class. For this reason, she has not been taught to perform long division. This task now falls to me, someone who has not attempted long division with multi-digit divisors in over three decades.
I finally enter the room where, every morning before her school day begins at 8:15, I arrange my youngest daughter’s desk with an iPad, a notebook, and a single, sharpened pencil. Now the desk is littered with dozens of crayons, three safety scissors, and an emptied bag of googly eyes. Her chair has been overturned, and three apple cores have been artfully arranged on the floor next to a pile of discarded clothing.
I look at my watch. It is 8:42.
Out of the corner of my eye I see our sofa. In March it was new, but now it is mottled with the stains of my failures as a parent. A new blot draws my attention. Is this dried glue? Is it smeared peanut butter? Is it blood? Who can say for sure?
When I look up, my younger daughter stands before me. She now wears a bright yellow ball gown resembling that of a princess. She has used a marker — probably a Sharpie — to draw a teardrop tattoo upon her face. This is her forth costume change of the day, and it occurs to me that my daughter changes her outfit more in a morning than I do in a week.
I ask my daughter why she has chosen to cavort outside rather than logging into her language arts class. She looks at me dumbfounded, unable to understand the premise of my question.
I see she has a point.
What does our dire current situation portend for these, my children? What shall become of my work that beckons from my computer? And what will become of our sofa and its nebulas of mysterious stains?
I take a deep breath and turn towards the family room’s large window. My eyes focus on its wooden sill and the single sock hanging from it.
“My child,” I say. “I have found your other sock.”
However, my child does not see the sock. She, too, is looking towards the window, but her gaze has been captivated by the flight of the birds, the pattern of branches, and the dance of the clouds as they arc across the morning sky.
Brantley Hightower, AIA, is the founder of HiWorks in San Antonio. He worked for Max Levy, FAIA, in 2002.