houses

When we were first married we rented a one bed room apartment in Virginia for the huge amount of $75 a month. It was everything we needed for our American inheritance style furniture: the bed and dining room table from his family, the sofa and chairs from mine, books from our college years. A laundry was across the street in another apartment building. It was on a direct bus route to the Navy building in Wash., DC where my husband worked. It was within walking distance of a small shopping area with a grocery store and a few other places to look into. I bought a cart and trailed it over the bridge over the major highway and supplied the house with the necessary stuff. What more could we possibly need?


The answer turned out to be a crib. Baby number one arrived one month short of our first anniversary and the first furniture item we had to buy was a crib. My husband had made book shelves for the books but making a crib was not going to work. We bought a crib that would fit through the bedroom door. The baby went to sleep in our bed room and when we went to bed, we would tote the sleeping angel into the living room.
Our second purchase was another crib. We also realized we needed a bigger apartment, so for a whole $95 a  month, we moved to a two bedroom apartment on the ground floor, on a cul-de-sac that was inhabited by an entire nursery full of friends for our kids.

We also had to buy rubber stoppers for the new crib because our bouncing baby boy had a habit of rocking his crib right next to the door so we could not get into his room and hoped the window was open so we could rescue him.
We bought our first house before baby number three arrived. This was a three bedroom house with a fenced-in yard and only one little neighbor to play with. We missed  the neighborhood full of kids so enrolled this crew into preschool. By now we had invested in more than the house: a car and a sail boat  and a stroller that would tote three kids at once.

One Saturday morning my husband suggested a drive around the area. We tossed the tribe in the VW bus and set out. (I do mean toss, compared to the thrones children sit on today in cars). I had no idea what was on his mind but clearly he did have a plan. We drove to a very small housing development. The road was just a dirt track and the houses were all alike, some the reverse plan, but just different enough to be very attractive. We toured  the house we liked and signed the papers, just like that. So house number two, with 4 bed rooms and a play room in the basement would be ready for us just before baby number four arrived. (Good grief, we had to stop this invasion.)

We did manage to stop the invasion of kids, but my husband’s continual trips to the west coast on business made a move there easy to accept when it was offered. I had not seen the area and trying to compare northwest Washington to what I knew of the east coast and the DC area was impossible. So we moved, sight unseen on my part, to a house a business friend found for us. We moved right after Christmas. Of course there was rain and gray skies and every day I put the kids on the school bus and would drive around town on errands and search for the mythical mountains. It wasn’t until late February that I saw a mountain. I called my husband at work and he told me where I could drive to see more mountains, and Mount Baker in all its glory in the sunshine, and a bright blue sky. The people here really appreciate the sunshine when the fog and rain clears and the views are so spectacular.
My parents came for a visit one summer. They were both born in Pennsylvania, but we had always lived in Maine or Massachusetts. Dad was a salesman of corrugated boxes and his territory was Maine at first and then Mass. and I assume all the areas in between. He knew the area well. He was also typical of many New Englanders that assume New England extends from the north Atlantic ocean to the Mississippi and all the rest doesn’t count.

So when he came to the west for a visit, we drove him around the area. Everywhere we went he would say, “This looks like the Maine coast.” “This is like Vermont.” “This is like….” So one beautiful July day we drove him up to Mount Baker. Both parents enjoyed the trip but the comparisons from Dad did not stop until I pulled over to the side of the road where Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan were shining under the sun in all their glory.

“Where in New England can you see that?” I asked. He didn’t have to say a thing. We continued up the road and threw snow balls in July.
The next house was ON THE WATER. I was given the task of looking for a house on the water. I found out very quickly that a house with a view of the water did not qualify. It had to be on the water, well the lot had to be on a water front. We learned of a two bed room house for sale that met that qualification. You can hear me groaning now… from a five bedroom house with a play room to a two bedroom house. Four kids squeezed from their relative comfort to… “Don’t worry,” says my ever-thinking husband, “We will move in May and we will have five bedrooms before school starts in the fall.
We bought the house. We had our bedroom. The littlest got the other bedroom. The middle girl got the basement. And it really was just a basement. The oldest got a separate cabin that would become my husband’s office when the remodel was done. And the son got the tent in the back yard. It was true heaven for the only son to have his untouchable haven in the tent. No making beds, no cleaning up, off limits to his sisters, just crawling in to his own nest every night. By September, the roof was raised, three beds rooms were added and a bath to the upper level and my poor son had to move into a real room. He surveyed our bed room over looking the water and wondered why he couldn’t have a room facing the water. “Some day you can buy your own,” says Dad , and he has.

The house on Chuckanut Bay was home until all the kids had finished college and moved on in their lives. As each child moved on to college, the youngest would watch their rooms being taken over as a guest room or the place for all the books. “You are not taking over my room,” she announced as she headed for a job in California. So when the job change occurred for us,we sent her a letter. “We are selling your room. Sorry.”
The job change would send us diagonally across the country to Florida, an unwelcome move on my part but necessary if we still wanted my husband to have a job. The house was small, back to two bedrooms, but on the water, and with a pool. And, for all my complaining, I had the nicest teaching situation in my career as a teacher. Small classes, great staff and we won’t mention the small salary. We had a sail boat and raced every weekend all year long. Can’t have that in the Northwest.
The next move was another big one. All the property on Cape Cod ended up in my sister’s and my laps when the older generations died. We were the only two and there were five houses and a barn. With some difficulty and persistence, we managed to get one of the houses and sell three. My sister took the old original house and the barn, and we got the beach cottage. Oh dear, now we were down to a one bedroom house and no kitchen. I was still teaching in Florida as my husband researched a remodel possibility and proceeded to turn a very small cottage into five bed rooms and a real kitchen… on the water.

That was it. No more moves. Guess again.
We returned to the west ten years ago and I will make no statements about another move. We are back on a lake with kids near enough to visit, near enough that we can attend weddings and host the family Christmas. Near enough to watch two little grand children as they grow up.

I have a sewing room with a view. My husband has his shop and we have a sail boat on the lake and our son and friends run races all summer.
A grand daughter sent us a picture of the house she plans to buy. It is a small two bed room house with purple walls and kitchen cabinets, but that can be fixed. It is all just beginning for her.


A friend is building a new house near by but states that in five years they will move to a condo. I am making no predictions. I could never have predicted our zigzag lives across the country and I would not change a minute of it.

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4 Responses to houses

  1. Tara says:

    Thank you for sharing this slice of your very rich life with us…blogging can be funny – you have to stitch together a sense of who each individual one reads about and comments on really is from the bits and pieces they choose to share. That last pair of book ended photographs speaks volumes: you have traveled far, you have seen much, but it is clear what anchors you – your family. I really, really, loved this slice…thank you!

  2. Lynnelle Snowbarger says:

    I feel like I’ve stepped into your family history. I like how you wrote this and it reminded me of Jerry Spinelli’s Memoir and Bill Wallace’s My Life in Dog Years. Thank you for taking a moment to let us peak into your life!

  3. Diana says:

    Enjoyed your post very much. You made me think of my own house history. You also made me think of all the different schools/classrooms/offices I have moved in and out of over the years.

  4. Mom – I love that you are writing our/your history. I’m reminded of the Joni Mitchell classic – Circle Game – a song that always brings a tear to my eye (0kay, I also cry for Hallmark commercials, so there you are….):

    And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
    And the painted ponies go up and down
    We’re captive on the carousel of time
    We can’t return we can only look behind
    From where we came
    And go round and round and round
    In the circle game

    It all comes ’round. I am experiencing what you went through, and my children will do the same. Only other things will be different. I can’t even begin to enumerate/explain – from 1955 to 2011 -wow, a lot has changed, and yet, maybe not as much as we think. The basic human experience of raising children and sending them off into the world and hoping for the best (and that they’ll forget all the stupid things you did as a parent) kind of remains the same?

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