Thirty Times a Charm


house


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.

. . .

Comments

  1. What an adventureous life you and your family have led! From living in basements, to building a family compound, and traveling all around the world; you and your wife have done it all! You should open a professional moving service, complete with tips on what to pack, and what to leave behind. On second thought, maybe you should do this after you write a book about how to be a wonderful husband and father.

    Julie

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    1. Julie: Thank you for the kind words. It has been adventurous, and the beat goes on, but I think I'll hold off on that book.

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  2. Hi JJ, I am dizzy just reading your post and all your house moves, but I really enjoyed reading about your family's experience and was fascinated by the description and the variety of homes you lived in. I also moved around a lot with my boys dad before we were married the home I am in now as been home for the past 16 years and its always felt like home since leaving my parents. But my husband now and myself are getting ready to start looking for somewhere else to rent a fresh start and new experiences maybe on the cards this year the boys are growing up and we have more times on our hands we would love to move abroad but that is still a few years away yet for us. Anyway I am rambling now I really enjoyed reading your post today. Good luck in your new home. Best wishes to you and your wife, Dee :-)

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    1. Dee: Great to hear from you. The boys are growing up! How time flies. I hope your new move is wonderful. I love fresh starts. Best to you and yours.

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  3. I hope you do decide to write the volumes, I'd love to know more about each place you've lived. I moved a lot as a child due to my father being in the navy and I guess it made me want to settle which is what I did and I've lived in the same house for over 20 years now but reading your story makes me wonder if I should have been more adventurous. Maybe I will be in the future.

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    1. Sarah: Three of my four children feel like you do, and the fourth is a wanderer like her parents. Likewise, I think my wife and I moved so much because our parents never did. Looking back, I do love adventure. It's never too late.

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  4. That is "SOME" house history. You have a wonderful memory. I've always said I wished I could have lived my whole life, in the same house where I was born.

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    1. Manzi: Your life has not exactly been boring! I love hearing about the adventures you have had. It is inspiring. I would love to live in Montana someday. It is one of my favorite states to fish and hike. Houses are just that - houses.

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  5. Most people don't have lives like this (you know that, right?). I've thought about it for quite a bit (after meeting you in real life) and finally decided that all of this came about because you and Carol always said "Yes." I think most people are more inclined to say "No" because it's safer. But 'Yes" can take you to some amazing places. Of course, it sometimes takes you places you'd rather not be (as you noted here), but then another offer/option comes along, you said "Yes," and were on the move again. It's pretty awesome.

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    1. Robin: Yes, I definitely know that. There is no right or wrong in my story, just a brief history of what was - and is. I chose a long time ago to go down swinging. That is not either right, or the solution for everyone. I do know that for me, I would waste away if I had Trump's lifestyle. If I had his money, I would give most of it away. For me, canoeing in the Canadian wilderness or taking on a new challenge that everyone says is impossible moves me - figuratively and literally.

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  6. After all that, our housing history would put you to sleep. We're only on number six, and all housing has been in the same metropolis. How boring is that! I envy you Florence and Madrid, but you can have ski lodges, Austria and parental housing. We did that one early on sort of. Ellis went into the service after our honeymoon. I went home to mama. Wherever you have lived, home is always where your beloved is.

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    1. Linda: That is the whole key to the story. "Home is always where your beloved is."

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  7. Golly, my husband and I have lived in our current home for 23 years. That said, met in college, in Vermont. I'm curious where you taught.

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    1. Liza: I taught as an adjunct professor in the Vermont State Colleges System and Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire. Other adjunct positions included the University of New Hampshire, New England College, and Israel College, Tel Aviv. My full-time position was with Franklin Pierce University. I currently still teach online in both Vermont and NH. I also teach at St. Leo University here in Florida.

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  8. What a full, diverse and interesting experience. I wish I had a similar story, but unfortunately I do not! As you know, I love to go and stay some time at the USA, but some of the places you lived in Europe are also exciting to me (e.g. Munich, Berlin and... Firenze - a live museum). Have you ever been in Portugal (my home country?)

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    1. Fanático_Um: I have not been to Portugal, but it is on my Bucket List. I love Portuguese food, and of course good Vintage Porto.

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  9. First congratulations on remembering so much, especially the little details. Not sure my hubby could do the same and we have only lived in three places together. Seriously. In all the ups and down of your adventures, the simple ones with paper decorations probably ranks high on your list of fond memories. My first hubby and I together only four years but more than a dozen places we played house together, had many of those paper memories, that still play through my thoughts even today.

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    1. Karen: The paper decorations are right up there at the top. It is funny. No matter how difficult and trying times get, those memories never fade.

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  10. You sure have a sense of adventure. It's fascinating to hear about all the different places you've lived. When we lived in Maryland, we were only in an apartment for a month before we moved into our first home, and a little more than a year after that, we sold that house and moved to Georgia... into what our realtor called a "starter home." Well, I reckon we must be slow starters, because we've been in this same home since we moved here in 1971. We built an addition onto it to have more room when the kids were growing up, but it's still a fairly small home. But it suits us! And we both think of moving as an ordeal. We did consider moving into a newer home a couple times, but the thought of packing up all the stuff we've accumulated over the years was more than enough to make us stay put.

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    1. Susan: Moving is an ordeal, and most people hate it. We have it down to a science.

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  11. I don't know what happened in your haunted house, but have you considered the possibility it was caused by a raccoon or some other critter?

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    1. Gorilla B: Oh no. I am an outdoors guy. I know raccoons pretty well. I'll find my old post and resubmit the story.

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  12. What a fascinating life you live. Sounds like life is good:)

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    1. A-M: Flagler County. We are getting closer! As soon as we close on the other house, we are planning a trip to the Keys. I'll let you know.

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