ore than 36 years ago, my wife and I decided to move from Framingham, Massachusetts to York Beach, Maine. We both decided to leave our very prosperous corporate jobs and corporate futures. Everyone in our family thought we were totally nuts to do so because corporate security was more important than anything was.
Back then, when you were part of a corporation it was common knowledge that the corporation would take care of you when you retired. After a lot of soul-searching, we decided to take a chance.
We did this because of the over-crowded conditions in Massachusetts and because we’d just had our first child. We wanted her to experience a cleaner, safer environment. We wanted to be able to control how our family evolved instead of having the hustle of urban life dictate our way of life.
When we arrived in Maine, we found a small naturally-shingled house nestled by a freshwater swamp in the middle of place called the Nubble in York Beach. The house was by no means new and needed many improvements but it seemed to be what we were looking for. I remember my wife only agreeing to buy the house as our “starter house”.
I, on the other hand, decided to purchase the house because it had the potential to be where I wanted my daughter to grow up and where my wife and I could grow old. I had to dig into every means of credit I had to acquire the necessary $5,000 down-payment. I finally found a bank that would agree to take a $20,000 mortgage. We moved in soon after, with a hefty $191.02, monthly payment due on the first of every month for the next 30 years.
The first year, I dug a three-foot maple tree and a four-foot “dollar tree” out of my brother-in-law’s land farther up on the Nubble, and planted them in my new front yard. I also took some stick-like shoots of wild roses and planted them between my trees. My wife laughed when she saw the final product and predicted that nothing would survive our first winter. But, looking at my baby and my young wife, I just smiled and calmly said, “We’ll see.”
For the next 20 or so years, we put up our Christmas tree in the same place under the gouge in the ceiling that our first tree made when I tried to carry it into the house. Our decorations never changed, they just grew more numerous. We built a room onto the house after the first five years and broke down a wall that reduced the value of the property because we evolved from a three to a two-bedroom house.
We started and lost businesses as we lived in that house. My wife lost our second child in a miscarriage and we were thus destined to have only one child, but what a child she is. She grew like my trees and bushes in both beauty and majesty. My maple grew to be well over 25 feet tall, with the “dollar tree” not far behind. The sticks created a wall of green, blossoming more roses than I had ever hoped to see in one place. My daughter became more beautiful by the year and she also became gifted in talent and intelligence. As an added bonus, my wife did the same.
About ten years ago, I had second thoughts about how intelligent our move was. My friends and family who stayed in the corporate world prospered like they were told they would. My brother-in-law and his wife started grossing over $150,000. Per year. They bought a huge modern home and had all the amenities that came with making lots of money. I, on the other hand, never did make much money but we really didn’t have to because our humble amenities were not that expensive to afford.
About the same time, most of my friends and family encouraged us to sell our “starter house” and buy a bigger and, of course, better one. The market was exploding and I could get five or even six times what I paid for the house not so long ago. My wife didn’t need much convincing and my daughter was at an age when she would have loved a bigger room and maybe even her own bathroom. I fought them all off because I cried that we wouldn’t be selling just a house, but our home.
Most everyone we knew sold and bought bigger and better houses and then resold them to get even bigger and better ones. But, like everything that happens in life, times changed. The bottomless pit of real estate investing abruptly ended with the failing of many of our banks. The rainbow turned gray with many of my friends and relatives barely surviving in their big houses with their multiple never-ending mortgages. I am sorry to say that some did not survive.
In fact, the whole country changed in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The economy literally collapsed and large corporations started their new philosophy of “downsizing”. Many of my friends and relatives who stayed in Massachusetts to live out the corporate dream were laid off. My brother-in-law was one of them. He lost his home, his wife, and his family. He still lives in Massachusetts because he is not allowed to live anywhere else.
So, here I am with my beautiful wife, who now owns her own successful esthetic business in Kennebunkport, and my daughter who is growing more beautiful by the day. I will continue to pay my $191.02 monthly mortgage. I will watch my daughter grow wiser and older and watch my wife grow more beautiful with the years. I will also continue to watch my trees reach into the sky and my bushes produce even more roses.
By the way, nobody calls our house a “starter” anymore: they just call it a home. Yet again, like everything in life, a new cycle is upon us. The economy and real estate market is once again booming. Once again, my family is encouraging us to buy bigger and better. Now that my daughter is independent and my immediate family only consists of my wife and me, I think I will give in this time.
My wife deserves a larger house with its multiple bathrooms and closet space. By the way, my wife has also evolved. I no longer consider her just my wife. She has now become my life. Our home was put on the market and it didn’t take long to sell. I just hope that a past mirror of ourselves bought their own, “starter house”, so they can plant their own trees and roses.
So they can plant their own future overlooking my past. So they can produce their own home.
Time Makes a House a Home
by J. G. Fabiano
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and a writer living in York, Maine, USA
e-mail him at: email@example.com
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