IT’S BEEN 13 weeks or so since Tim and I first had a casual conversation about listing our Bickley’s Pond home for sale, and today, as I write this, I find myself standing at my desk in a new (to us) downtown house in my new studio space–a pretty pink bedroom we’ve converted to a quiet creative spot where I can write and paint and think and dream. To my left there is a tall window that offers a nice view even if it is not of nesting bluebirds and paddling mallards. For the new place is a 1966 ranch that sits high in the back/low in the front in a hilly uptown neighborhood. My studio is positioned on the house’s front side, which means when I look out what I see is our small but perfect front yard, the raised street beyond (with its regular joggers, dog-walkers and the like), and the two homes across the way that sit close but high up–a good bit higher than ours, geographically speaking, and which actually makes for an effect I find most pleasing. The cumulation of these things: our position on this street, our place in this old neighborhood, this city that I find to be just big enough–these things in collection create warmth and comfort, something I’m just noticing now. Yes, warmth, that’s it, and comfort, sweet comfort, a kind that fits just right.
And what makes it so?
Two things come to mind as I stand here, for the first time considering it.
- My upbringing in a small town, with streets just like this.
- The sense that this neighborhood has history, and stories, and permanence.
WE BUILT THE HOUSE at Bickley’s Pond in 2006/2007 and moved in just in time for the economic crash. (The timing was not great, to say the least.) But what a thrill it was to choose the lot, design the floor plan, select every finish and finial. And then to watch the dream come to fruition one brick at a time, every passing milestone carrying with it the promise of the beautiful life a house built JUST FOR US would deliver.
It did not disappoint. We woke up most every morning thinking–and often saying to each other–Can you believe we get to live here? Can you believe how lucky we are. But as it inevitably would, and as it did, time moved on. Our kids grew up, and we came to the undeniable conclusion we just didn’t need the big house with the big yard with the care-taking that was required anymore. We also came to believe a “shake it up” change in our lifestyle would be a healthy thing for us both as we ventured into our 60s. And so we turned our gazes (Tim more quickly and easily than I, I must say) from the suburbs to the city, from a home-centered existence to one more focused on go-and-do activities and experiences.
IT WAS RATHER MIRACULOUS how we (AKA our realtor) found this downtown home so quickly. Because once we made the decision to sell, our house was sold in no time. We dove head-first into clearing, boxing, packing. Every fear I had about the process proved true–I was overwhelmed and anxious and overcome with emotion as day after day, hour by hour, minute by minute I excavated my life. I’m certain it did not help that I was facing my 60th birthday, but whether or not that carried inordinate weight, it was a daunting task to stare down every what was in my 60 years and then to decide is this worth carrying forward.
But that is not actually the point I am meaning to make. What I’m meaning to tell you is that in this new place, this new home, the world has filled in around us in rich and beautiful ways I did not expect. The universe has taken every hole and fear and worry and one-upped it; in fact, in spite of my deep sadness over leaving Bickley’s Pond and the sweet, precious neighbor-friends who, to us, mean the world–this move has proven not only right but important.
There is the sense of history here, as I mentioned. It’s something I find palpable. Most homes in the area were built in the early 1900s or else in the boom just after World War II. In every way it feels like a neighborhood. We have discovered there are countless friends and acquaintances who live on the winding, tree-lined streets nearby; nearly every day I get another call, email, text or flower delivery (!) from someone I know sharing his or her address, welcoming us to downtown, giving us a tip about a great restaurant or a nice walk route or a pro move when it comes to the perfect grocery shopping time. And there is this, which we hear over and over.
Did you know I grew up on this street.
My grandparents lived over there.
We’ve been here 30 years.
They are roots that feel good to me, a small town girl who spent her youth in a home also built in 1966; who lived next door to her beloved grandmother; who walked to school and played outside and spent winter snow days sledding down Macklemore Hill with the same gang, winter after winter.
Who is mighty happy to be on this side of such a big move.
Who already feels at home in a place somewhat foreign, and at the same time remarkably, beautifully familiar.