Living in History
We have officially passed the one year mark in our Massachusetts house and have signed a lease for another 12 months. Not a week goes by where I don’t miss the relative luxury we lived in while in Northern Colorado, but it’s getting better.
If Colorado was my fat pants in terms of mind-numbing comfort and relative ease of living, Massachusetts is my skinny jeans – still comfortable but with some challenges and certain expectations. What I value about living here is less materialistic and more inspirational. And that’s good, because I don’t really have a choice.
Sure it would be nice to have a garage for the car and storage, or at the very least a basement that was not 90% equal parts dirt and arachnid, but we’re getting used to what we have: a driveway, something shed-like, 10% of useable, but damp, basement space, and an attic that has a few stable places in which to put things you don’t mind the mice visiting from time to time.
I miss my old oven and refrigerator, but we manage with what we have. The kids actually prefer our teeny fridge because they can now hang things up with magnets. While stainless steel is pretty, it’s not optimal gallery space. On occasion I miss the amount of interior space we used to have, but living in a house half that size has actually brought us closer together – literally and figuratively. We simply can’t escape each other the way we used to, but it sure was nice to spread out once in a while.
To continue the thread, and do it honestly without worrying about how first world I sound, I also miss my giant tub and its mechanical bubbles, central air conditioner, dimmer switches, vaulted ceilings, push button fireplace, finished basement, large windows, deck, manicured lawn and flower beds, and looking at our first and only house from outside, at night, and with Ben, aware that we had finally, in our 40s, achieved ownership of something.
Creature comfort and emotions aside, most of all I miss having a fenced in yard where the dog could run. Living on 2 acres is great, but not particularly useful for a dog when most of it is overgrown, riddled with rusted metal parts of various functions, with a giant cellar hole and hidden Colonial dumps and wells, and next to a busy, winding, and narrow road. If we could find a cheap way to fence in just a small portion of the yard I would do it tomorrow and just let the dog go wild. She could join the fox, deer, groundhog, and errant roosters that also call the yard home.
When we first moved into the 260 year old house, we discovered there was a learning curve in inhabiting an antique house and had to get used to a lot of new things. We’re now old friends with the uneven floor boards and even the few that dip down under our weight giving the sensation you are about to fall down to the floor below. Learning to deal with rooms that lean and lurch in various directions also proved difficult at first, but the kids have perfected running stops throughout the house without letting their momentum propel them into doors or hallways the way it did the first few months.
We’ve perfected the art of shimming and learned that cardboard does not make for a good long-term weight-bearing material. Our major electrical discovery? While we might not have the power to use a space heater, we did successfully run four low powered air conditioners this summer and survived the heat and humidity. After draining the well during a rollicking summer day with a birthday Slip n’ Slide, we also now know we have about 30 total minutes of water supply, but the well refills in about 15 or so minutes.
Going into the fall and winter we now know how to replace the furnace filter that bogged down our heating abilities last year. We have more curtains and shades and know which doors to leave open and which to close for optimal air flow. We also know how to prepare for a storm when having both a well and septic system and have a fantastic stopper when filling up the tub and a closet for bottled water. We learned that having a snow blower is life changing, but not if you leave it at the bottom of a hill before a storm. Then it is back breaking. We’ve also learned that it’s possible to use said snow blower on a gravel driveway, but not when other people are present or when near house or car windows.
Living in Massachusetts is as wonderful as we thought it would be. Between a New England fall with Halloween and Thanksgiving, forest living in the winter, the blossoming of spring and summertime fun both on the coast and off, there’s not a bad season to be had. Most of all, I’ve learned we picked the right town for our kids. The school is providing them with an education we couldn’t find anywhere else. They are happy, healthy, making friends, and becoming part of the community.
I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to buy our own house in Massachusetts given the cost of living. If we are lucky enough to get one, I’m guessing it won’t be here in Carlisle unless a financial genie appears and grants us 20% down on unaffordable. But I do know that I continue to appreciate what we have. Because it’s pretty great.
Now, about those skinny jeans…