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A Moving Idea

Sometimes an idea will simmer in your mind for a long time before you get the details worked out. Or even begin to take it seriously. Then some sort of trigger gets pulled and you feel compelled to act. Even obsessed with bringing this idea to fruition.

When I was a child my father’s employer transferred his job to another city. Another state. He loved his job, so he was going. And so were we. He was moving from the sprawl of Northern New Jersey to a manufacturing town in Pennsylvania. Not far from the Amish Country. He wanted to live in a rural area.

He and my mother looked at houses to make their new home. One of them was a farmhouse on a large hunk of acreage. In the middle of nowhere as farmhouses with vast expanses of land tend to be. He liked it. My mom, not so much. She was afraid that she would be isolated from the rest of humanity. And that her two young children would be stranded far from friends. Eventually they built a house in an upcoming new subdivision. Close to town, and shopping. The best schools in the state. A one-quarter acre lot.

This particular area was still considered to be in the country, and there were vast cornfields behind the house. And across the street, in the still undeveloped portion of the neighborhood, there were open fields. Up the road was the farmhouse and red barn to which all of this land had once belonged. So my father got a little of what he wanted, and my mother got everything she wanted.

That’s where I grew up. From age five until I graduated from high school. The day after I graduated, my parents moved out. They had bought my father’s dream home. An old stone farmhouse on ten acres of land. With a barn. They lived there for the next thirty-eight years and although I had grown up in suburbia, I have ever since considered this second home, Shadowlawn Farm, to be my real home. Like my father, I too loved the country life.

Fast forward to twenty years ago. My life takes many turns similar to my fathers. My wife and I had started a family and were living in an urban subdivision. The schools were failing and we wanted more for our children. We started to look in the neighboring county. Which happened to have the best schools in the state.

We looked at existing subdivision homes. We looked in the country. Every Sunday we would drive out to the country and ride around looking. One neighborhood had particular appeal to my wife. Best one in the county. We had always heard that you should buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you could afford. That was her plan. I was still holding out for the farm.

Finally it was my father-in-law who caused me to take action. He shamed me into it. What he said to me one day was that my kids needed to move. They needed to be near other kids. And I should get off my wallet and do right by my family. Of course I was going to take care of my family, but I didn’t have to do it at the expense of my life. But I did.

Time was passing and a new school year was approaching. If we bought a new house, or piece of property in the next county we could enroll the girls in the best schools available. There was a vacant lot for sale in that best neighborhood. So I bought it. And my wife and I got together with a builder and proceeded to construct a new house. It was exciting, but a story for another time and blog post.

Fast forward once again. This time to 2016. For the past twenty years I have been poring over real estate books looking at houses. Moving has never been a consideration. The kids were still in school. Then college. My wife was content. I was antsy. Then my back failed. Two surgeries later and I was having real difficulty with the stairs in our three story house. And walking. Moving suddenly became a consideration. But where?

To be continued…

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

www.personalhistorywriter.com

 

 

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Stressless Moving Series

Certain events in life cause great levels of stress. Some of the biggest stressors include loss of a loved one, major health issues, becoming an empty nester, loss of a job, retirement and moving. There are many others, and by no means am I downplaying their importance. In the past year, I have experienced each of those I listed above. At least once.

Some of these I’ve talked about a little I think. And some I don’t care to talk about at all. But moving, now that’s a subject I will gladly talk about. So, just to give all my readers a heads up, I am going to be putting together a series of posts regarding my adventure in moving. From nineteen years in the suburbs to a mini farm in the county.

Stay tuned for chapter one soon!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Storage Wars

Enough is enough! She finally told me to pack up my stuff and get the hell out of her house. Well, not exactly all of my stuff. And she wasn’t quite ready to throw me out. Yet. The Powerball numbers hadn’t been drawn yet and I was waving my lucky ticket.

It was the garage. And the basement. Over the past couple of years I had filled them both up with all sorts of wonderful treasures. Things I had gathered from far and wide at yard sales, junk shops and even the occasional antique store. These were things I knew had great value, and I knew I could sell them for much more than I paid.

If you are any kind of collector, or dealer, you probably know exactly what I mean. You buy something you think is cool and save it for yourself. After a while you have a lot of these things and it occurs to you that maybe you should thin the collection. Time for a yard sale. But you keep collecting. A yard sale is not going to handle what you need to dispose of. So you move up to having a booth in an antique mall.

And then two booths. And still its not enough to handle the growing collection.

Soon you look into finding a storage place to keep it while it waits to hit one of the antique markets. What I found was that renting a booth at the antique store was cheaper than renting a storage unit! No brainer- get another booth and keep the stuff out where people can see it and buy it. But that isn’t turning over the inventory fast enough. The garage once held two automobiles. Now there is no room for either. She wants her car in the garage. She doesn’t care where I park mine, but she wants hers in the garage. Get that crap out!!!

I finally found a place to store the stuff that cost less than another antique mall space. Its got twenty-four/seven access so I can go visit my stuff when I get the urge. Or need to move something to one of the stores. Trying to load up my truck I find myself struggling to decide what to take first. What might I be able to leave in the garage once I clear enough room for her car? Keep the mid century stuff in the garage because it will be the first stuff to go the the store. Keep the “projects” in the garage because I need to be able to work on them. Keep the things I like in the garage. Because I like them. Shit. There is nothing left to go to the storage place!

Rethink this. Wicker furniture. Spring and summer sale item. Take all of that. There is a desk that needs a lot of work. Save that for later so off to storage. This is getting s little easier.

Then the bubble bursts and she reminds me that what she really meant to say was I want ALL of this crap out of here. Everything!!!!! So now it’s a matter of what goes first so I can pack the storage place in some order. Damn. I may have to move myself into the storage booth so I can see my stuff.

But, we are going to sell the house soon. And it will be a lot easier to do that if the garage and basement look like there is plenty of room for storage. We don’t have to show buyers that by example. Let them use their imagination. Full of their crap.

Hopefully, over the next couple of days and weekends, I’ll get it all out. As well as all of the junk my two kids are still storing here. And no more stuff will fly out of the back of the truck while I’m driving down the road. And the garage and basement will be beautiful. And we will sell the house to move on to the next thing. Whatever that may be. Hopefully it has plenty of storage.

And if the lucky ticket doesn’t pan out, it could very well be that I’m out the door too! That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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It’s Official

Well, after months of preparation, the day has finally come. Bittersweet. My parent’s home is officially on the market. I don’t know if there is a for sale sign in the yard. I would think so. But I found the MLS listing on the Internet today.

It’s a nice write up. Very descriptive. And I’m sure it will entice a good family to buy the house. But there is nothing the realtor could say that would begin to describe or explain the real history of the house. Or what has made it our family’s home for thirty-eight years. It can’t say anything of the family gatherings at Thanksgiving or Christmas. My sister’s wedding reception on the lawn. The horses in the barn in the early years. Nor can it recreate the experience of making the house, as it was in 1975, into what it is today. Ripping out walls. Rebuilding walls. Painting. Patching. Wallpapering. All of the custom carpentry work that went into the dining room, living room, kitchen and master study. There is nothing about replacing the slate roof. Rebuilding the barn when a blizzard caved in the roof. Or my dad’s ritual with the coal burning stove in the kitchen. Every night he would put it to bed. And wake the flame in the morning.

Thirty-eight years is a long tome. A lot of things happened in that home. Good things. Memories I will always treasure. But now my folks have moved and the house is for sale. My dad says it will be nice to sell it, and move on with life. But I know he will miss it. As will my mother. As will I.

The house is one hundred forty years old. The first one hundred were unknown to us. It was a working farm. It fell into some disrepair as the farm family aged, moved on, and sold it. We bought it and revived the place. Not to a working farm but to a comfortable home. And made many memories. Our stamp will always be upon the place. But it is the people inside the house who make the home, not the building itself. Now it’s time for a new family to make their mark. I can only hope they will love it as we have.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Caretakers of the Tree

The place was named Shadow Lawn Farm. At one time an expansive place with livestock including cows, pigs, chickens and horses. There was a two story bank barn in days of yore. The second story disappeared somewhere along the line and it became a one story barn with horse stalls and a place for tractors. And a garage. Then there was the house. A two story place made of stone dug out of the fields as the farmers worked the land.

No telling what the first place looked like, logs and mud maybe, but the original stone house was a two over two built in 1863. Over the years it was expanded, still using the stone as a building material. And then expanded more using wood. Porches were added, and covered up, until it looked like a stone center with wings spreading out in every direction. All based on the two foot thick stone walls of the original.

And from the beginning, out in the front yard, grew the little tree. But now, after all these years, I couldn’t possibly get my arms around its trunk. In fact, I believe that my full six foot arm span wouldn’t cover its diameter! With its numerous branches, from the ground up, and its sixty foot wide canopy, it casts one hell of a shadow across the lawn. Get it? Shadow Lawn Farm.

It’s not just any old tree though. I’m pretty sure someone long ago planted this beauty. Not an oak or maple or even hickory or elm. This is a copper beech. And a magnificent specimen it is! The largest in the county! I’ve only ever seen one larger. That one is so big that where its lowest branches have dipped to touch the ground, new trees have sprung up, themselves now with branches nearing the ground. That tree is protected from any onslaught by being located on a college campus. Carefully tended.

My tree grows in the yard. It touches the house. And reaches its branches out over the road in front. Keep in mind that the house sits over a hundred feet from the road. But running along the side of the road is the electric company power line. Quite a danger for a tree. No, the tree won’t get electrocuted. But the power company doesn’t like trees. The branches give squirrels a way to get to transformers to commit suicide. And black out the neighborhood. And the branches can fall off the trees and snap the power lines. Especially when everything’s weighed down with ice in the winter. So every once on a while the power company comes along with a whirring buzz saw and mangles anything near its power lines.

Except the copper beach. For nearly forty years my parents have stood guard over that tree. Recognizing its beauty. Grandeur. And significance. You can hear the power company coming for miles. And every time, my mother or my father would wait at the edge of their property to meet the power people. They would tell them about the tree. About its beauty. And significance. And every time, the power company people would get out a pair of pruning shears and gently take out a twig or two. Just enough for the power cable to run through the middle of the tree unobstructed.

If I remember correctly, in the winter the bare branches form a crazy maze of avenues. Spring brings leaves of purple. In the summer they turn green. And in the fall, oh, in the fall they turn that magnificent copper color and shimmer in the sunlight. Spectacular to see. And each year it grows a little taller, and wider, and closer o the ground.

My parents are moving this spring, before the leaves emerge. I don’t know if new owners of the homestead will know about the shadow lawn farm. But they will see the tree. The question is, will they intercept the power company buzz saw to preserve the tree? And its beauty.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? http://www.personalhistorywriter.com

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The End of the Book King

For as long as I can remember, and I have a pretty long span, he has been known as the book king. He even signs his name that way on Christmas cards. In any antiques store he could always be found among the books. Turn him loose in a bookstore and he’s good for hours. Like a lot of people he goes to book sales at the library. In fact though, he has graduated from just going to the sale to a position where he provides consultation regarding book values, and works the sale as a volunteer. He’s known as the king because he’s a collector, and he’s got a lot of books.

He specializes in maritime, military and poetry. But that doesn’t limit, or define his collection. There is history, biography, science and mathematics. More recently he’s collected a lot of books on medicine as he reads to understand his own medical status. He doesn’t do romance novels or cookbooks, but everything else has found its way into his collection.

No one ever knew how many books he had. Too hard to count. What we knew was that in every room of the house there were shelves and shelves filled with books. They were stacked on the floor. Stacked on stacks. On the furniture. In the bathroom. They were everywhere, and not in small numbers. We just knew he was the king, and had a lot of books.

In the last couple of months he’s been getting a handle on the books. He and my mother are moving. And there is no room for all of the books. He poured over them again and again trying to figure out which ones he could part with. I don’t know what his criteria are for keeping or setting free. I doubt that he’s looked at all of them, but he’s made a good effort at it. He’s got a lot of other things going on with this move.

Three book dealers came to the house. One at a time. The first one bought something like four hundred books. The second dealer took seven hundred. I think the last guy left with something like nine hundred. Then there was the big giveaway. The AAUW, Association of American University Women, were the lucky recipients of over a thousand books. Just come pick ‘em up and they’re yours. I went through the whole collection before the dealers, and I took a couple for myself. As did my brother. And sister.

Don’t get the wrong idea. He hasn’t been cleaned out. No telling how many books he’s kept for himself. I know I saw him moving more bookshelves into his new apartment. He’s planning to start gathering more books soon. But it took a lifetime to gather the original collection, and now he’s only got what’s left of a lifetime to rebuild. And I haven’t even mentioned all the books my mother has! Off to a grand new start. Long live the King! And Queen.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?   www.personalhistorywriter.com

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The Phone Number

What?  Disconnected? That’s impossible.  But there she was again, that nice lady on the other end of the line telling me that she was sorry, but the number I had dialed was no longer in service.

Other than my social security number, which I will not share with you, that phone number was better known to me than any other number in the world.  Yes, I know Pi to umpteen decimals, and all the basic integers.  And my birthday.  But this phone number….

I still remember the phone number from the house I grew up in.  Thirteen years.  And nearly forty years ago.  At least the last four digits.  1883.  That’s pretty good considering I don’t know my wife’s office number.  Or either of my kid’s cell numbers.  Or even my own work number half the time.  But this number….

For thirty-eight years this number represented home.  Not where I lived, but where my family was.  This was my parent’s phone number.  For 38 years.  And today it was shut down.  Forever.

I say forever but the phone company will probably give it to someone else.  I might call it one day to see if the new owners are deserving.  Like my parents.  For thirty-eight years I knew I could call this number and a person who cared about me would answer.  Someone who gave me everything.  Who would do anything for me.  And had repeatedly done so much.  It just rolls off my tongue, straight from my memory.  Without a second thought.  But now I don’t need it anymore.

My parents moved today.  They didn’t take the number with them.  Take that you nasty telemarketers!  They were downsizing.  Starting anew.  So they decided a new phone number was in order as well.  I hope they can remember it. 

I’ve got the new number plugged into my iPhone.  One of my contacts.  That way I won’t be tempted to call the old number.  By force of habit.  But I’ll probably never remember the new number.  Not like the old one.

New life for them.  New chapter for me too.  There will be plenty of memories associated with the new number I’m sure.  But it won’t be that number….

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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