It was 15 years ago today

Jul 31, 2006

Timeout from reviews to note that today is the 15th anniversary of our ascendancy to homeownership in this very house. That’s not very exciting, I know, but who would have expected we’d be here 15 years later? Well, I would, since it was a traumatizing experience and not one to be immediately repeated, plus we’ve got a huge amount of crap that don’t move itself. Beth wasn’t figuring on staying here this long, but hey, it’s her crap too.

After spending our first two years of wedded bliss in scenic Waltham, we decided to buy a house. Couldn’t buy one in Waltham, though, unless you wanted a two bedroom bungalow (less than 1000 square feet). Even though there were only two of us at the time, all the aforementioned crap was going to require a lot of extra space. At the apartment we rented, we had access to the attic, plus I still had lots of comics back in Illinois and Beth had a lot of stuff at her Mom’s house. Investing in real estate was in everyone’s interest because our respective parents could finally rid themselves of all the stuff that we weren’t carrying around with us already.

We started looking in the winter of ’91, and focused on marlborough because it was in the same general direction as Waltham but enough further out to be reasonably priced. Beth, having grown up in Framingham, had to overcome the stigma that all the towns around hers had from all those years of rooting for the high school football team. Every town that Framingham played in football was a dump. Except for Natick, it was a cesspool. We got ourselves an agent who had been the real estate office secretary but had just gotten her license and was related to a friend of Beth’s mother. She and her husband drove us around town one weekend, looking at pretty much all the inventory in our price range. She had no idea what she was doing, unfortunately. We bid on a victorian in an old part of town that Beth really liked, the guy who was selling it was trying to wheel and deal, we were neophytes and unforuntately so was our agent, so the whole thing fell through. Beth was despondent for weeks.

So we stopped looking for a while. We ended up switching agents and went with a Remax lady here in town, who was one of these go-getter million-plus sellers, and she was the listing broker for this house, which we were mildly interested in. The inventory had changed by then and she spent a Saturday driving us around not only in Marlborough but into Hudson too. We even went without her down to Quincy and Weymouth and looked at a few houses there, and one in Dedham, but they were all too small or too beat up. In our price range, you were either looking at fixer-uppers, not my area of expertise, or more “bungalows”. We ended up bidding on this house, even though it had some problems (kinda old, not much of a yard) it was big and in reasonably good shape. Two guys had bought it together a couple of years before as an estate sale, figuring to do some cosmetic work while living in it for awhile, then “flipping” it, to use the current parlance. But the market turned on them and they couldn’t get what they wanted for it. Meanwhile one of them had gotten engaged and was starting to get motivated to sell for less. We made an offer, they countered, we came to within about five thousand and stalled. Neither side would budge, so that deal looked d.o.a. also.

The summer was coming up so we decided to take a break and planned a trip back to England, our honeymoon destination from two years before, driving up from London to Scotland and back. After the trip was all planned, I was off at chorus rehearsal one evening when Beth got a call from our real estate lady, Elaine, asking if we were still interested in the house, since it still hadn’t sold. Beth said we were, so Elaine made a few calls and called back a short while later to say they’d accepted our last offer. Beth wasn’t quite sure what to do, since I wasn’t there, I can home from rehearsal later and she said, “I think I just bought a house.” She had told Elaine we’d stopped looking for a while and had just spent a chunk of cash on a trip to Scotland. “Well, go ahead and take it,” Elaine said, “because it’ll be the last trip you take for quite a while!” punctuated by this horrible aspirating laugh that she had.

In those days before cellphones and e-mail, everything was done by fax, which seems very quaint by today’s standards. Moving day started with the closing itself, where we all had to schlep into Cambridge, and the movers showed up at the apartment around lunchtime, having already done one move that day. We knew we needed a crane for the piano, because that’s how we got it in the apartment, so they were able to use it for the couch and the fridge too. Guys were bounding up and down the stairs two at a time, carrying multiple boxes of books or records. We had planned to help just to keep things moving along, but ended up just getting in the way. The truck was so full they couldn’t swing by Sue’s house as planned to pick up some furniture, but they made a couple of calls and got another truck to do that. Beth had her Mom and her brother and her Mom’s friend Charlotte with a couple of her kids here at the house to help dispatch everything as the movers brought it in, it was Beth’s brilliant idea to have a big dinner here for everyone as soon as the movers left, which I staggered through, totally exhausted.

A day or two later I was off to Vermont to my first board retreat at Keivan’s place, leaving Beth to a big house full of boxes of stuff for the weekend. I figured I had plenty of time to unpack, but how often do you get to spend a weekend in Vermont? Fifteen years later, we’re still unpacking. Beth still wants to move, I’m not against the idea, but it seems like sort of big job, not to be taken lightly. Best to think about it for a few more years.

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