We moved to central New Hampshire in June, an area known as the “Lakes Region”. There are lakes pretty much everywhere you go. The house we’re renting is part of an association with a shared beach on a lake, and the whole area is just water, water, water. And woods. And tourists, although they seem to be going away now that Labor Day is over. It’s the sort of place that draws vacationers, retirees, and second-home owners from southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I’m glad that we rented first rather than buying a home in an unknown town- already life here is different from what I expected.
Starting with our neighborhood… as it turns out nearly everyone here lives in Massachusetts and these are their vacation homes. Which is funny, since I moved here to escape what I perceived as the Boston sprawl of southern Maine/seacoast New Hampshire. The house we’re renting is the biggest, most expensive home we’ve ever had, and yet we’re surrounded by people who can afford to keep these homes as a getaway. Yeah, not exactly us. The weirdest part to me is that they have these lake homes and boats and all the expensive trappings of success, but they hardly even use them. It’s one thing to hear about the one percent, another thing to be surrounded by them. We don’t fit in, but it’s peaceful and we’re comfortable so it will be fine while we figure out whether or not we can make a more permanent move.
Our house is way too big, and we only use a fraction of the space. It was neat at first, marveling at all the space after living in small places for most of our life, but as time goes by it bothers me to see rooms sit empty. We needed a place to live and were getting kind of desperate, this came along and met our needs and we were glad to find it, but I can’t imagine choosing to buy a house this big, let alone choosing it as a second home. And now we’re going to have to heat it, in a climate that definitely gets cold and snowy. But like everything else, it’s an experience and that’s how you learn and grow. It has helped me clarify what I would be able to work with when it comes time to buy our own house. All the other times we bought houses I wasn’t really paying attention, deferring to my husband, not making the effort to think clearly about what I wanted. And now I can finally think about it, and it feels good to know what is important to me and what isn’t. My ideal home at this point would be about 1600-1800 square feet, three bedrooms and an office, open area for kitchen/dining/living room, and a garage for my husband. Later on when all of our kids are grown, we would happily downsize to much less (condo?) and a nice RV. Unless I’ve really gotten into homesteading type adventures by that point, which may or may not happen.
I know that our next place will be more in line with our values. It may be local, or not… we’re not ready to make that decision yet. I’m putting money away for a down payment, biding my time. We’ve moved 25 times in 30 years. I counted recently when my daughter was complaining about her first big move as an adult. That sounds crazy, even to me, although the number is skewed by a lot of moves we did when we were very young. We did stay in our own houses for several years each time we bought, so I’m still not sure how it has added up to almost a move each year. It may be time to settle, to have a home base for a while. There are things I love about living here- the proximity to water and woods, the natural beauty, the quick access to the White Mountains and the north country. This is a very safe place to live- both in terms of crime and natural disasters. No hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires. Crime exists everywhere, but Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont regularly top the lists for safest places to live.
I’m not wild about the community, perhaps because of the influx of tourists and retirees it seems to be lacking something organic, people of all ages who are committed to building a life here. But I may not have explored that aspect enough- there’s no way to know that in a couple of months. I may find my tribe yet, or I may be correct in my assessment and it might prove to be elusive. There may be another town that has more of what I care about, and I just don’t want to buy a house until I feel that unique draw of the community. It’s not the rural aspect- rural can mean all kinds of things, good and bad. It’s more a feeling about the culture, and it’s something you know when you find it.
So… lots of things to wait and see about. The first thing is my husband’s job. It’s a great job and he’s paid well with a lot of freedom, but there’s some weird stuff going on and it got a little crazy this summer. To the point where the stress made him physically ill, and that’s not okay. He’s better now, but it stole the joy from his summer and has made us wary and guarded about the future. Fortunately I’ve been feeling very well physically, so I was able to be the strong one for a while. That’s a nice thing about a partnership- one of you can be there to pick up the slack when needed. But we don’t yet know what the future will hold. We thought we did, and we were wrong. We’re going to give it until the first of the year to decide. End of October for some immediate stuff, and then January for a final decision. By final, I mean we assume that he will keep working remotely for this company and we pick a place and buy a house. Or… something else.
Then there is Jesse in school- what he thinks, if he wants to stay put. Out of the four of us he was the only one who wasn’t thrilled to move to the woods, away from the ocean and a busier pace of life. I should know by now that teenagers need lots of excitement. So far he has said that he would be willing to change schools to move to a different place (bigger, less rural, and/or the ocean- Hawaii, California, or the southeast coast in that order, but really anywhere more happening than here). But he’s just started school, and it’s a great, nurturing environment, so he may change his mind. It’s a healthy lifestyle here, no question about it. And that’s good for kids, even if it seems a bit boring at times.
Meanwhile, we live our daily life and enjoy the things that are special about this place. One thing I’ve become quite good at is living in the moment and appreciating what is right in front of me. I’ve now lost my father and my sister, and all of my relatives that I knew when I was growing up. That kind of loss affects the way you view the world- you understand that nothing is permanent. My forties are drawing to a close, my role as a mother continues to change, my older kids are well into their twenties. Most days, I’m just happy to be alive and healthy. I went through a lot of reflection this summer, dealing with the emotional fallout over my sister’s death. And after some time had passed I felt compelled to write again, to try to capture the changes and tease out the things that matter, letting go of the things that don’t.