Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Now that we are old . . .


We moved every few years when I was a child—not because my dad was in the military, but because something would change in our lives that made it necessary. The first move I remember took place when I was seven, in 1947, although it was already my third home. Both of my widowed grandmothers had died within a year of each other, bequeathing quantities of heirloom furniture to my parents. Receiving it was an honor, a privilege and responsibility, so we bought a larger house out of necessity. Those were the days before anyone had even imagined mini-storage units.

I was so thrilled with that house! I still remember my excitement, waking up in my new bedroom as the sun streamed through the window. A wonderful feature of the house was its “back hall” that could be closed off; we used it as a piano room. The kitchen housed a built-in table with seating booths—just like a restaurant! The next door lot was vacant, the perfect host for many evenings of summer games, and then we built things from its excavation dirt when its owners began building their house.

When my father decided to leave his job in Seattle to start up his own hometown bank in 1951, he shopped carefully for the right small town in which to establish it. He settled on Aberdeen, Washington, and chartered Harbor National Bank. Our lovely Seattle house went up for sale and sold so quickly that we had to rent a furnished house in an adjacent neighborhood for three months so my sister and I could finish out our school semesters. When we arrived in Aberdeen, we again lived in a rented, furnished house for several months while we waited for the sellers to finish the house they were building. It was June 1952 when we finally got into our fabulous turn-of-the-century Aberdeen house—the fourth place our family lived in one year’s time.

In 1955, Dad’s bank was acquired by a large statewide bank and we returned to Seattle. My parents elicited my help in looking for our home there, and the process made me feel very grown up and important. That was my first taste of house hunting, heady stuff for a fifteen-year-old. (My older sister was enrolled in a college across the state.) Many memories were made in that house—romance and sadness, hope and betrayal. Some of my happiest moments and some of most difficult happened there. I moved to my own apartment just blocks from the University of Washington in 1960 to be closer to my classes and my friends.

By the time I was twenty, I’d already lived in eight places!

Married life brought a number of moves, and most of them “upward,” to bigger, better homes for bigger, better reasons. Eight more places! Here’s the overview: #1 Newlyweds’ studio apartment for one year—moved because of a baby on the way; #2 One-bedroom apartment for another year—moved because another baby was on the way; #3 Three-bedroom rental house for three years—moved because yet another baby was on the way; #4 First home of our own (bought with the help of my mother) where we lived four years—moved because hubby took a job in Milwaukee; #5 Three-bedroom, rental house in Milwaukee (a single-family home sneakily changed into a triplex by the sneaky landlord) for one year—moved because we bought our own house; #6 Our own two-story, four-bedroom turn-of-the-century beauty—moved thirteen years later because hubby took a job in Seattle; #7 Small rental house in Seattle for one year; #8 Spacious rambler, circa 1973, our third “own house” in Seattle and the place of empty-nesters.

You might say, after living in sixteen places over a forty-seven year span, the last one finally ‘took.’ But now we have decided to move again. Part of me wants to say it’s for no compelling reason. At least it’s not because of a new baby or a job change. But it is for a life-changing reason: aging. So this time we bought something a little smaller. Now the housing telescope is contracting, not expanding. We are doing the proverbial “downsizing” in an effort to be responsible old people. Fewer square feet equal less stuff. We hope.

This time it isn’t as exciting as it was when I was a youth. It isn’t filled with eager anticipation, the way it was when I was nineteen or twenty-two. We aren’t moving because of the promise of something wonderful happening in our lives, as it was when we were expecting babies or landed a new job in the career path. Now it’s all practical. We’re getting old. Tired of yard work and gutter cleaning and painting every few years. Weary from trekking up and down the driveway to collect the mail, the paper, and the trash cans. Overwhelmed with the wearing out of house parts and alarmed by the wearing out of body parts. We’re starting our disappearing act, and it’s uncharted territory. But to make it less terrifying, we’re shaking it up a little by adding a big distraction—a lovely townhouse, new neighbors, beautiful scenery, easy-to-access parks and trails. It should be interesting, even exhilarating. Let’s hope so.

1 comment:

J said...

Change can be a surprisingly wonderful thing! I hear your new place is just perfectly situated -- I am sure once the dust settles you'll be very, very happy there! Wishing you all the best -- Jan (in San Francisco)