It was February 1992 when my wife and I moved into this house that has now been our home for 30 years. It’s the house where we became a family when our daughter arrived in 1993. While I can’t say that our house is a very, very, very fine house we have made this place our home, and there’s no place like home.
Thirty years in one spot didn’t seem possible in early 1992. Married for seven years, we had lived in six apartments in four states: Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maine, and then New Hampshire. This second foray into Maine came after a year of looking at probably 50 houses in the seacoast region of New Hampshire. We needed something close enough to I-95 to facilitate my wife’s daily commute to her high-tech job in Massachusetts, off of Route 128, of course, America’s high-tech corridor, the precursor to Silicon Valley. Then at a Sunday brunch in June 1991, a high school classmate pointed out that I-95 also extended across the river into Maine.
Two months later, while enjoying our Friday night pizza on the 11th anniversary of our first official date, we decided to buy a house. The next day, Saturday, August 17, 1991, after one more late afternoon walk around the property, we signed the Purchase and Sale Agreement on our house.
My wife and I are reminded of that date every summer when a meteorologist inevitably mentions Hurricane Bob. Caught up in committing to buy a house, we didn’t process the news of the hurricane making its way toward New England and our new home, surrounded by trees on its heavily wooded 4-acre lot. So oblivious were we to the forecast that we each drove to work that Monday morning as Bob arrived in Boston. Fortunately, the house and all of those trees emerged unscathed (that time), and after five months of negotiations between the seller and his bank while we sat and waited, we were able to move into our new house.
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house sits in the middle of our half-mile long street in a small development of about a dozen houses, a pond across the street in the front, woods and a small, now mostly dry, stream in the back. At one end of the street are the big houses on the river with views of New Hampshire. The other end of the street connects to a state highway, which connects to I-95
It was fun to give friends and relatives directions to the house when we first moved here.
Exit I-95 and turn away from the ocean. We are 6 miles down the highway. Pass the adult entertainment store and the town dump; shortly after the trailer park you will see our street on the left. If you reach THE traffic light, you’ve gone too far.
There are now three traffic lights between the highway and our house. The big business in town used to be storing construction debris from the “Big Dig” in Boston. It’s true. In empty lots and behind buildings, there were trailers from 18-wheelers full of most likely toxic construction debris. Times change. For a couple of years, it looked like storage units would be the growth industry in town. And we now have a Dunkin’ and a Dollar General. Just recently, however, the big business has become marijuana. Now directions to our house might sound something like this.
Before you reach our house, you will pass three medicinal marijuana stores. If you reach the corporate headquarters for the marijuana company (appropriately housed on the site of several failed take-out restaurants near the original traffic light), you’ve gone too far.
And I didn’t even mention the CBD store or the recreational marijuana store that has lines of people and cars outside every weekend like it was a packie in Boston the week before Christmas or the afternoon of any prime-time Patriots game.
But to a large extent everything’s the same here in my little town. There’s still the local intrigue, infighting, and just the amount inbreeding you might expect in a small New England town where so many people, places, and things share some variation of the same three surnames. The kind of place where no one batted an eye when my daughter was the only member of her youth basketball team (player or coach) not related by blood or marriage(s). It’s still the same quirky little town whose bicentennial celebration a couple of years back featured a new highway sign proclaiming proudly that it was settled in 1623, but as far as I know has no plans to celebrate that 400th anniversary next year.
More than a home
For better or worse, this space that we share with so many other living creatures and inanimate objects has been more than a house and a home.
From 1995 through 2005, a good portion of the house served as a home office and corporate headquarters for Data Analysis & Testing Associates, Inc. (DATA, Inc.) – a small consulting company that eventually included three-fourths of the original data analysis department from Advanced Systems. My wife and I are almost finished using the 33-cent prepaid return envelopes we were stuck with when the charter school company folded in the middle of our contract to administer their nationwide parent survey (in English and Spanish).
And despite Francine Jay’s admonition that your home is living space, not storage space, our house became a repository.
It is a repository for thirty years of NEERO artifacts and memorabilia, poster boards and programs, sundries and swag. We ate too many leftover NEERO mints over the years, but those “credit card” hand sanitizers have sure came in handy.
It is a repository for large-scale state assessment history. Much too much of MCAS and NECAP are still sitting here in shelves, drawers, and boxes. Most of KIRIS I ceded to the mice in the garage, but there’s still too much of that here, too. It’s time to let go of the agenda and notes from the first TAC meeting I attended in New Jersey in November 1991; but they don’t make TACs like that one anymore.
And it is a repository of family history from the homes of grandparents and parents who are no longer with us. A word of advice, be sure to ask the names of all of the people in those old photographs before there’s nobody left to ask.
And, of course, it’s a repository for our own 30 years of history – maybe even 36-38 years if you count those boxes that we shipped back to our parents from Minnesota in 1986 that were never unpacked and eventually ended up here.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Taylor Swift memorabilia.
Time to Let Go. Time to Move On.
My parents stayed in their house 2-3 years too long because my father didn’t want to leave. It was the nicest place he had ever lived and the nicest thing he ever owned. My wife has already mentioned that in the best-case scenario the time is approaching when the relative isolation we have enjoyed here will be more of a burden than a blessing. The time is coming when having to drive at least 20 minutes to reach anything (except marijuana) simply will not be feasible.
So there comes a point when it’s time to move on, a time when you have to take the bull by the horns and let things go – including the mounted bull horns, the one souvenir my father brought home from our family trip around the country in the summer of 1971.
As one of my high school classmates advised philosophically and eloquently during a reunion Zoom call last summer, “Your kids don’t want your crap. Nobody wants your crap.”
I hear that you can use ebay for selling as well as buying. I’ll have to look into that.
But now that I think about it a little more while sitting and writing in this cozy room (such a cozy room), our house is a very, very, very fine house. Later today, I’ll buy some flowers to place in that vase we bought at Williamsburg Pottery back in 1991, while dreaming about moving into our house.