My wife and I recently moved to our new home in Florida. It was move number thirty, and defines our history. I have listed below the places we lived. We visited many more and stayed for a while. Anyway, here are a few memories:
· Ann’s House – My First Basement
From humble beginnings, my wife and I took the money we received as wedding gifts and had a great honeymoon. Unfortunately, when we returned, our apartment arrangement had fallen through. With no money, school loans, and four part-time jobs, our options were limited. A wonderful lady I worked with as a teller at a local bank offered us her basement. It became our first residence. It took us six months to find a place we could afford.
· Mrs. M’s. – Maybe a Short Marriage?
We rented a house from the grandmother of a friend’s friend. She would be away for several months, and we were told we could stay there upon her return, but share the premises. We were excited – until she began calling her son for dinner. At her request, I went down her old dusty basement to look for “Freddie.” I returned to the dinner table and told her he was not there. She replied, “of course not. Freddie died." My wife freaked out, and ran into the bedroom. Mrs. M followed her in to calm her down. Initially, it worked, until she mentioned that Freddie died in our bed. On the road again.
· The Projects – My First Hood
A friend of mine arranged a cheap basement apartment rental in a not-so-good area in a major city. We lasted nearly a year before things got too tense. I do remember buying a Christmas tree with three branches on it from some guy sitting on a curb. We decorated it with paper things, but my wife wasn’t crying.
· Lake House #1 – Thanks Mom and Dad
My dad retired and purchased a lake house he and mom visited on weekends. We were very happy when he offered it to us. We were alone during the week and both of us were working multiple jobs. We got to see each other on weekends – with mom and dad.
· Lake House #2 – Thanks Mom and Dad
My in-laws were wonderful people, but not exactly quick people who made snap decisions. Nevertheless, they purchased a small lake house after looking around for twenty-five years while living in an apartment in the city. They took a year to move in, so we got to live there in the interim. It was too small for all of us. In fact, we had to go outside to change our minds. When they moved in, we moved out.
· Lake House #3 – Bye Bye
Fortunately, we found a home for rent in the same lake neighborhood. It looked great from the outside. Beggars can’t be choosers. In any event, we lived there for eight months. I do remember two things about that home. First, I was due at my new full-time job quite a distance away (about two hours). I had to leave rather early to get there on time. I never missed an episode of “Underdog” at 5:00 am. It was my two-year old daughter’s favorite cartoon. When it was over, I left for work with the speed of lightning, just like Underdog. On my first day on the job, as I was getting ready for work, I heard the toilet flush and my daughter saying, “Bye Bye.” My wife and I looked at each other and said, “Oh Oh.” She had flushed my only pair of shoes. Luckily, it was winter, so I could crank up the heat in the car to dry them out. They were “squeaky” clean when I arrived at work.
· The Lake Apartments – Poor Paradise
Finally, we saved enough to rent a real apartment, “on the lake.” Unfortunately, there was no lake, but the parking lot was nice. At least the place was clean. I remember making furniture from milk cartons discarded by the school where my wife had landed a job. We were very proud, stayed there a year, and made some lifetime friends we still see from time to time.
· My Cousin – God Rest His Soul
Actually my cousin’s husband, he proved to be a real friend and family member. They were about to sell their home and he offered it to us. We had very little money saved and still plenty of school debt. Nevertheless, he suggested we borrow the money from him and pay it back whenever we got ourselves on our feet. He is gone now, but we will never forget him. We had purchased our first house, and were on the rise.
· The Housing Boom – Debt Free
My cousin’s house was God sent. We lived there three years, made some lifetime friends, and sold it for a profit. We purchased another home, and the appreciation soared during the Reagan years. We were able to pay back my cousin, pay back my school loans, and celebrated. We finally made it. Our bank balance was $0.00. We were debt free, and once again on the move up.
· The Upper Crust – Not My Style
We were married eleven years, and after many struggles not mentioned here and a ton of hard work, we really did make it. The American Dream. We had a magnificent house, one can only dream of, but life has twists and turns. Somehow, much of the fun of struggling had disappeared. Neither my wife nor I were very comfortable among our new set of acquaintances. Making sure I did not spill the wine I was sipping on my tie while I visited my neighbors is not my style. Then, suddenly, my best friend and business partner died. Once more, our worlds fell apart. We practically gave the house away, and I left my profession. Of all the places we lived, this house was never our home.
· The Condo – You Gotta Be Kidding!
We were definitely hurting, but there is something to be said of coming up the hard way. We had already lived under difficult circumstances, so we knew we could do it again. We had three children at this time, so I needed inexpensive accommodations that would house a family of five. Nothing is impossible to a willing mind. I found a three-floor condo, six bedrooms and five baths on the market for sale. Of course, we couldn’t buy it, but I learned from the broker that the owner moved to Europe. I offered to rent it inexpensively until it sold and promised to keep it in condition for sale. We agreed to help with the sale any way we could. We did. Nine months later, the condo sold and out we went.
· Stratton Mountain – Watch Them Ski
Vermont is a terrific ski state, and we had become a skiing family. We took what we had left and bought a house right at the bottom of a ski slope. Unfortunately, we could only find time to ski on weekends and it got so crowded with tourists that if we wanted to ski, we had to travel an hour north. It was not worth it, it was getting too expensive, and I was looking for a new career.
· Ski Chalet – Loved It, But Still Watched
Our next move was a smaller, more affordable ski chalet. We still could not ski there because of the crowds, and finances were getting tighter. We made two monumental decisions. First, I began a teaching career at a local college, and never realized how much I would enjoy the experience. Second, since we had such a close family and a perfect marriage, and since we had been blessed by the difficult birth of our third child, we decided to adopt an unadoptable child. The story is too long to even outline here, but suffice it to say the experience launched my writing career.
· The Cotswolds – First Touch of Europe
As I became more involved with the university at which I was working, I took the opportunity to secure a teaching abroad position. By a stroke of luck, the experience enabled us to see most of Europe, which began in a beautiful section of Great Britain, which was our first exposure to Europe.
· School House – Restored, Like Us
Back in the States, we decided to take a shot. We poured everything we had into the restoration of an 1869 schoolhouse. It was fabulous!
· Madrid – Not Long Enough
Under university contract, I spent a semester in Madrid. The Prado Museum alone was worth the experience. Spain is one place I could easily live again, and I will return some day.
· Vienna – Long Enough
Austria is beautiful. Vienna is majestic. We lived in the summer palace of Maria Teresa, while I taught a semester and traveled through much of Europe visiting art museums. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I could not take the food. The Austrians salt everything, even their salt. I spent most of six months eating Japanese food, primarily vegetable soup.
· Cross Country Ski Resort – A Compound
By the time my oldest daughter decided to marry, we were still trying to re-climb the ladder to success. She was looking for an apartment in a lousy section of Concord, New Hampshire, and it made me sad to think she would have to struggle as my wife and I had. Once again, we threw caution to the wind. We found a cross country ski resort that had gone bankrupt in the 1950s. It was in shambles. There were three cabins on a hill, a main lodge in disrepair, a huge building where they used to store rental skis and equipment, a private bridge to the property, and a branch of a trout stream running through the land. We sold the schoolhouse for a loss, but were able to restore the main lodge and one cabin at the ski resort. In time, we fixed up the entire property, and built a compound for our entire family. As the kids grew and had families of their own, we sold the property.
· Munich – Could Be My Favorite
While the ski resort was on the market, my wife and I went to Munich to teach. To this day, Munich might be my favorite city. It is worth more of a story than I could relate here.
· The Haunted House – Yes, It Is True
I posted our experience at the haunted house a while back. I will try to find it and re-post it. It is very interesting.
· JJ the Architect – Fun, Fun, Fun
After selling the ski resort, we lived in the haunted house for about six months while we were building some homes for ourselves and our kids. I decided to draft the plans for our house by myself. I did a pretty good job, except for one bearing wall that had to be installed. It worked out great. A year later, my daughter secured a job in South Carolina and sold her house. We decided to sell ours as well. We headed for condo life.
· Snob Heaven – Even the Dog Complained
The condo was a different experience for us. It was not us. We lived among people who were better than everybody else. We lived there only six months. Even our dog hated the neighbors, and she was the friendliest Labrador Retriever with whom we ever shared our lives. We moved to follow our daughter to South Carolina.
· Berlin – The Wall
While our new home was being built, I taught in Berlin, another city I cannot describe in one post. We were there for Y2K. 100,000 people at the Brandenburg Gate on New Year’s Eve topped it all! What an experience.
· Greenville, SC – Not a Good Fit
When we finally moved to Greenville, we felt like skunks at a lawn party. In the year we resided there, I got to speak frequently with an African American business man from Italy, who also felt isolated, and a Mexican garbage collector, who was about as nice a man as you would ever want to meet. One was Black, one was Spanish, and one was a Yankee. I really loved the city of Greenville, but it was time to move on.
· Firenze – I Might Belong There
Florence, Italy is fantastic. I could live there in a heartbeat. I was teaching and writing, and we did not stay long. However, given the chance, I could settle there. Art. Food. Architecture. Just too much to share at this time.
· The Alsace – Eye Opening
Strasbourg, France opened my eyes. I had heard the French were rude and unfriendly, especially to Americans. Nonsense. Three-hour lunches at outdoor cafes and wine fit for a Caesar was part of the daily culture. Too bad it was short lived. I must return someday.
· The Spec House – Re-uniting Family
We moved to St. Augustine, Florida quite unexpectedly. We decided to buy a spec house and sell it for a profit since the market was still booming. We loved it so much, we moved in. When my daughter followed us to Florida, she bought our house, and we built another close by.
· The Brick House – Back to the Classroom
When my other daughter followed, we repeated the process. My son already lived near us, and my fourth child was still living with us. The family was re-united. I lived there while I took a position at a high school teaching in a Cambridge University program. When I was finished, we moved out again, of course.
· St. Augustine – The Longest Stay
My wife and I have lived in our last St. Augustine house for seven years, which is probably the longest period we ever lived in one place. We recently moved again, a little further south in Florida, but close enough to see the rest of the family regularly. We still have the St. Augustine home, but the closing is scheduled for this month. Hopefully, all will go well.
· Again - Still Crazy After All These Years
We are loving life in our new home. As we were eating dinner this evening, my wife and I reflected on so many adventures we shared. To fill in the gaps in this brief history would take volumes. Raising the kids, traveling the country, hobbies, etc. are human experiences that differ from family to family.
God willing and the creeks don’t rise, as they say in New Hampshire, we might eventually move again someday. But of one cliché I am certain. Home is where the heart is, not the house.
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