Thirty years ago — July 22, 1991 — my family moved into our new house. It was, for me at least, our dream home. Still is.
The family included a high school student, now a marketing professional in New York City and the mother of my grandson; a daughter entering middle school, now a physician in Philadelphia and the mother of my three granddaughters; and a kindergartner, now in Austin adding a Ph. D. to his two masters’ degrees.
We have a 10.6 acre, wooded lot in a neighborhood with 12 other similar lots. The logical spot on which to build — where the house wanted to go, according to one of the architects — turned out to be pretty much in the middle.
My wife and I had our bedroom put on the ground floor, realizing that some day, we wouldn’t want to be walking up and down stairs a lot. It’s been “some day” now for a few years. We were required by code to put a rail on the front steps. We ignored that rail for a long time, but now we understand the reason for that requirement only too well. Similarly, there’s a stool in the kitchen that fits under one corner of the island. It rarely left that spot for many years, but now I sit on it as much as possible while preparing dinner.
Some of the ideas I had for its design dated back to my early adolescence. When I was about 12, I enjoyed looking at the “house of the week” in the Sunday newspaper, as well as sketching out various floor plans I imagined. Eventually, I “designed” my dream house. I don’t know what became of that sketch, but when I was in high school, I recalled it to mind and put it on graph paper, to scale.
I didn’t know that version still existed when we were working with the architects, but not long after we moved in, I found it in some old papers. There were similarities between it and the real blueprint that were striking.
We put the girls’ bedrooms and bath on the second floor, with a separate HVAC system. Once the second one entered college in 1998, we began closing off the upstairs when no one was at home there.
A year before we moved in, we went to a potluck for the high school cross country teams and families. The hosts had been in the newly-constructed house about a month. I thought it was nice of them, but maybe not so smart. A month after we moved into our new home, we hosted that year’s potluck. Area carpets in rooms with wood floors were remnants from carpeted rooms. I hung the art work the night before the event. The kitchen had no back splash.
A year later when my daughter and her coach decided we’d host again, I realized people likely cut us slack the first year, but now we had no excuses for a subpar event. We finally went out and bought real area carpets a week or two before the gathering. The back splash was in place, but I felt more pressure to be a good host than I had felt the previous year. (It went well, as have other such events through the years.)
Ours was the second house to be built here. The first was next door. We had begun getting to know those neighbors a year earlier when we had bought our property and they had begun construction. Over a few years, other lots sold and houses were built. In each case, by the time the new neighbors moved in, we had become good friends.
In recent years, several of the houses have changed ownership. We meet the new neighbors, but our friendships don’t have the incubation time that original construction provided. The ambiance of the neighborhood has changed over time. Not necessarily for the better or the worse, just different.
The neighborhood was created by a long-time friend from a section of land that has been in her family since colonial days. The acreage she retains and on which she lives is adjacent to our neighborhood. We can walk to her house through the woods.
Even after 30 years, we haven’t grown tired of seeing deer close to our house frequently. We also have foxes, ground hogs, raccoons, ‘possums and, now, interloping coyotes, though we don’t see these regularly. Squirrels, on the other hand, run around and over our house constantly. Well, we do live in an oak forest. We have a good variety of birds. There are rabbits in the neighborhood, but I’ve never seen one up on our hill. So far, no bear sightings here, but there are some in the area.