Looking for home, again.
My housing history after I met David was: two apartments in Cambridge, two in Summerville, two dorm years in Bronxville, New York, five apartments in NYC including one in the East Village and one in Park Slope, a town house and a house in Bloomington, Indiana, two houses in Indianapolis, one house is Madison, Wisconsin and now, one flat in Newton, MA.
I come from a family who generally planted themselves in one place and never moved—my parents lived in two houses in two north Jersey towns, David’s parents lived in one apartment and one house in the same Jersey town, my aunt moved to the second floor of her mother’s house when she married and stayed there until infirmity forced her to move to her children’s home late in life, my sister has lived in two homes in Jersey and one horse farm in Virginia. Had there been an available horse farm in Jersey, I imagine her never moving from there ever. And I imagine that Cheshire and Justin, who moved last year to a 300 year old house, are planted for a good long time, if not for the rest of their lives.
Compared to these family members, David and I were the vagabonds, the wanderers who were able to pick up on a dime and completely change our lives or at least our place. I don’t regret our experiences and yet, I am deeply envious of those who have spent their lives in their home towns, or who have moved one or twice winding up in their forever house. In both cases, building a deep, lasting community of relatives and friends who are close by. I know and meet so many people who have lived in their house for twenty, thirty, forty years, and the mention of their housing experience can come with such a feeling of peace and safety. Admittedly, David and I twice declared, at least to each other, that we had found the house we would lived for the rest of our lives.
But we didn’t.
Julia and I have lived on the first floor of the Blue Victorian house in Newton for almost three years. Initially, I thought we would look for a housing situation to buy within a year, but Julia’s transition challenges and Covid became the excuses for that plan to be swept aside. My fuzzy replacement plan was to stay put for another few years until Julia’s work/housing was on some track. Now, that too has been swept aside by my landlord’s announcement that they intend to sell the house in the next year. The announcement was not unexpected. When we moved into the house, they lived on the second floor, but with Covid shut down, they migrated to their summer place up north and eventually decided to stay.
And so, it is time to start looking.
I have grown use to Newton. I think it is a great town for Julia to live and work permanently if that can work out, and I have built a community at the Newton UU Church that I have come to treasure. Just very recently, I have come to understand just how lay led Newton church is. Our minister is retiring at the end of the church year and although I know she will be missed, the blessed community has taken up the search for a new minister without missing a beat which is different from what I experienced in Madison when our long time minister retired. It may be the size of the community that makes for this difference. Madison’s big church size may have made it more dependent on minister leadership, wonderful ministers to be sure, but the departure of one of the ministers sent the community reeling. Newton, on the other hand, is so much smaller and long term members step up quickly and often to leadership.
Newton would be a lovely place to end up if not for the price of housing. I will not disregard Newton real estate listings but I doubt that anything in my midwest price range will ever appear.
In addition, Cheshire and Justin’s Westford house is a bit too far from where I am at present to be a completely useful grandmother in the next years. Ideally, something between Newton and Westford would be ideal.
But still where?
Two years ago, when I started talking about a house, I dreamt about something near the water, especially the ocean. Not on a beach, but within walking distance, even a long walk. However, there is not beach between Newton and Westford, so that imagining has been pushed aside.
Between Newton and Westford is Concord, a town that I find completely charming; however, once again I would be looking at a very expensive town so I cannot depend on finding anything. But within the Concord orbit might be possible.
I had also really hoped that I could find something, make something happen, so that I would be able to live in some sort of community. I was not built to live alone. To have neighbors who became friends, to have a possibility of some suppers together, or a neighbor’s door to knock on for tea or a glass of wine, and to share a garden. There are co-housing communities in Cambridge (another very expensive town I love) but once again, they are too pricy for my budget. I had thought that perhaps I could organize a small co-housing community, but my reality is that my organizing energy needs to stay focused on Julia for the foreseeable future. There are hours, days, weeks, and months of finding what she will do after her program ends, what she will be able to stick with, and where she will live when she decides it is time for some independence.
I contemplate another rental and I concede that not being responsible for the moans and groans of an old house has been delightful. Water on the floor on the basement, call the landlord; kitchen faucet not working, call the landlord. However, I miss painting my bedroom the twilight blue that I especially like and hanging a poster that is too heavy to use stick on hooks on a horse-hair plaster surface. Of course, I miss a dedicated garden—not for vegetables and annuals but for perennials and bulbs planted for the delight of many next years.
I have a list of wants in a house: old, an open plan, a fireplace, two or three bedrooms, wood floors, a kitchen I can remake to be perfect for me, a bathroom with a good tub or good tub potential, a garage, basement storage, and a garden. I want something quirky, something unique: a piece of a firehouse or a church, a carriage house or something ordinary with quirky potential. And I am flexible, for a most workable location or an interesting property, I would cross a whole lot of wants off my list.
And so, this is the beginning, once again, of throwing my needs and wants into the universe. I’ll follow real estate websites and make calls, I’ll go to open houses, I’ll start telling friends and anyone I meet that I am looking, and light a few candles, sit in meditation. Anyone who wants to say a few prayer is enthusiastically encouraged. I’ll be expecting serendipity and miracles because that is the way of things.
Just one more thing: whether it is age or experience or place and time, I am not holding onto the level of anxiety and stress that this kind of adventure has generated in the past. For this, as for many things, I am grateful.