Some friends' recent decision to sell their home in favor of downsizing to a smaller home, got me thinking about our home. This year marks 30 years since we bought it. I'm not thinking of selling it and downsizing -- it only has five rooms and one of them is a galley kitchen. Not much more downsizing I could do!
No, over the past few days, I've been remembering all the good -- and bad -- times we've had in this house.
We bought the home from a friend's aunt. We had been working with a Realtor, who couldn't seem to understand that we really meant it when we said we wanted a home in a flat area of North Adams with at least two bedrooms, a fireplace and counter space in the kitchen.
We looked at homes on Furnace Street, Rock Street (off High Street) and on upper Eagle Street. Definitely not flat areas of the city -- and not one had a fireplace unless space heaters qualified; all that did was add central heating to my must-have list. We also looked at one that was on a flat street in the West End, but the house itself was up a long flight of stairs, with parking at the bottom. I was not going to carry groceries -- and laundry, since there was no room for a washer and dryer in the house -- up those stairs. There was also the issue of standing up straight in the bedrooms, the ceilings were so low we had to walk bent over.
"You're not going to find anything that fits your demands in your price range," the Realtor warned.
The house was ideal for a young couple just starting out. It had a large backyard with gardens, a large living room, a dining room and two bedrooms, plus a huge covered deck. The living room had a fireplace and while the bathroom and kitchen were small, they could work. Plus, there was a school just down the street.
We figured we would stay there for a few years and move on to something bigger -- and that was three decades ago. We stayed because we had one child and the house never became crowded. Cluttered and disorganized at times maybe (though I like to think of it as cozy). It was also the ideal neighborhood to raise a child; every other house had kids for him to play with and there was little traffic on the streets, plus the school playground and the Little League field was close by. The yard also was perfect for a swing set, pool and still had enough room for a puppy to run.
We signed on the house and acquired a 13-percent mortgage in the process. We signed the papers on June 28, 1984, and moved in a few days later. On July 3, the textile mill my husband worked at closed and he was without a job. He was fortunate to get a temporary job for the summer and then was lucky enough to get one that he held until his retirement in 2009.
One of the first things we did when we moved in was to take down the wallpaper in the rooms. The bathroom and master bedroom had wild 1970s daisies and flowers on them. The second bedroom, mercifully, was painted a baby blue and stayed that way until our son turned 10 and wanted it painted school bus yellow. (I'd like to say the school bus yellow grew on me after a while, but that would be a lie.) The living room had a green and yellow vertical striped wallpaper -- nothing I would have picked, but I could live with it.
And that's the way our life in this home has gone. We've had our high moments -- our first holidays in it, bringing our newborn son home from the hospital, many birthday parties, many Halloween parties, Christmas Eve open houses, graduation parties and entertaining family and friends. We've had our bad moments -- three of our parents dying within three months of each other, my husband's illness and passing, and the usual homeowner problems of leaky roofs, leaky pipes, a water heater that rusted out, a furnace that didn't heat, drafty windows and a crack in the foundation. One of my "favorites"? The animal that crawled into one of the partitions and died during a very hot spell of weather one summer. The stench was terrible!
I used to be able to touch just about any surface in the house and it would bring back a memory. Five years ago next month, we lost the original structure in an early-morning house fire. None of us were hurt and while we lost many things, we also were able to save many things that were important to us like all our photo albums.
I'm not looking for sympathy; as I said then, "It's over and done with and I can't change anything, so let's move on" -- and we did. There are subtle changes in the house from the original, including a cathedral ceiling in the living room and a redesign of the kitchen to give me more counter space -- and a dishwasher!
If I want to touch anything that was part of the original house, I have to go downstairs and touch the foundation. And although, I've racked my brain, there seems to be no fond memories of anything that happened in the basement thousands of loads of laundry don't count.
As my friend talks about looking for a new home, I look around at mine and remember the 30 years I've spent here. I wouldn't want to change a thing, and I'm here for the long haul.
My son has an obsession for the Girl Scouts Samoa cookies. Needless to say, these are among his favorite brownie variations -- and mine because they are so easy.
1 brownie mix
3 1/2 cups shredded coconut, toasted
2 14-ounce package of caramels, unwrapped
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tablespoons milk
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
Prepare brownie mix according to box directions and cool. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place coconut on baking pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir coconut and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until toasted. Watch closely so it doesn't burn.
In a large, microwaveable bowl, add unwrapped caramels, salt and milk and cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (about every 45 to 60 seconds). Cook until all caramels are melted and smooth.
Add coconut and mix together. Spread over cooled brownies. Refrigerate 4-5 hours or overnight. Remove at least 1 hour from the fridge before cutting. Cut into bars and drizzle with melted semi-sweet chocolate. Let chocolate set and enjoy. Store in fridge, but remove 20 to 30 minutes before serving as the caramel will be hard.