I’ve been toodling around for a day or two now on a post titled My New/Old House. You know, all about getting settled in the house, and how maybe it’s haunted, and like, why is there a fireplace in the basement, and have I mentioned that it’s pretty big for one person and I might need to adopt a kitten? And possibly a wolfhound? And how I’ve been exploring the local area and I found a bakery that has been operating in the basement of someone’s house for the last hundred years. Stuff like that.
But we interrupt these posts in progress for a word about the weather. More like 3 words. Like, excuse me, but, What The Fuck? Or, a teeny bit more appropriately, Oh…My…God. If you recall my previous posts, you may remember that before moving East, I experienced considerable anxiety about winter. Driving in it, living through it, cold, snow, ice, boots, puffy coats. All those frightening things. And winter had its challenges (read the aforementioned cold, snow, ice, boots, puffy coats). But it was also fairly gentle and I managed to get through it basically unscathed.
I never gave any thought to the other three seasons, except to muse how lovely spring was, with the beautiful flowers and scampering bunnies and whatnot. And to eagerly anticipate my first New England fall, with the changing leaves and apple picking and whosis. Never gave a second thought to summer. Whatever. Not my favorite season anyway, and if I had pondered on it, it would have been merely to think, oh, won’t it be nice not to live through another summer of heat in the San Fernando Valley, where it’s not unusual for the temperature to top 100 degrees for weeks on end.
Well, folks, turns out there is something far more uncomfortable than 100 degree weather for weeks on end. I never would have believed it until I experienced it, but there’s this thing called humidity. And I know we’ve all heard that old adage “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” but whoever believed it? Not me. How could 90 degree weather ever be worse than 100 degree weather? Well, let me tell you! The day I moved was the hottest day in 3 years, about 95 degrees out. No big, right? Add in 70 percent humidity and you are now approaching the gates of hell. And sure, I may be prone to dramatic license now and then, but trust me, listen to me, believe me! I thought I was going to die. I have quite literally, in the most literal sense, never sweated so much in my entire life. And I’m a person who doesn’t even like to admit I perspire, perhaps a gentle glow now and then, but sweat? Nope. And on that day, sweat ran from my eyes. My shirt was plastered to my back. It sucked the life out of me and made every little chore seem like the hardest task ever accomplished. And it didn’t let up. Not at night, not in the early morning.
My new house is not air conditioned, which means it stays hot. Fortunately I had the sense to put a window unit in my bedroom, which has remained blissfully cool while the rest of the house swelters. We are in a heat wave in the North East, which is what they call it when the temperature remains over 90 degrees for three or more days in a row. It is brutal, and the only blessing is the realization that unlike SoCal, we have seasons here, and this weather won’t persist beyond the next month or so. I can do another month as long as the end is in sight.
In addition to this heat and humidity, twice this week, we have had something called microbursts tear through my neighborhood. A microburst is defined as a sudden, powerful, localized air current, especially a downdraft. It’s sort of like a mini, short lived, backwards tornado. It comes in quickly and violently, with teeming rain, extremely heavy wind, lightning, thunder, and even hail. I’ll confess, the first one scared the pants off of me. Good thing it was so hot I wasn’t wearing pants in the first place. But in the span of about thirty minutes, the sky darkened, rain came pouring down, lightning and thunder crashed above and I stared out the side window watching it all in fear and amazement. A few minutes later, I heard a boom and a crash out front and I ran to that side of the house to see a huge tree limb, which had either been hit by lightning or torn off by the wind, blocking off the street in front of my house.
I had just met my across the street neighbor the night before, and he had kindly said, if you ever need anything. I didn’t quite know what to do, so I ran over to his house and knocked on the door. He came out and told me he would take care of things, that he would drag the tree limb to the roundabout that centers our cul de sac and then it would be the town’s problem. I wasn’t too sure about that solution, but I really don’t like to play the damsel in distress, so I told him I would do it (not really being sure I could physically pull that off but at least I wanted to try), but he told me no, the neighbors wouldn’t mind if he did it, but I was brand new and they might get ticked. It was all a little weird to me, so I confess, I sort of stood out there wringing my hands (shades of damsel, bad Kathi), until he came back around and yelled at me to stop standing under the tree in the storm. The tree limb disappeared the next morning, so I guess his solution was a good one, but it still made me a little nervous.
The storm ended as quickly as it began, but three nights later, we had another microburst. This one was even more violent, knocking out power across towns and uprooting trees, some of which blocked off major thoroughfares. My property held up through that one, but another neighbor on the cul de sac had three old trees in their yard completely uprooted, one of which crashed into their garage and caused some decent damage.
It’s all very different from what I’m accustomed to. Not bad, necessarily, but it will definitely take some getting used to. I’m thankful for all of my earthquake preparedness, I have the flashlights and battery radio and lanterns all in strategic places in the house so I can survive a short power outage reasonably well, although it was pretty steamy in the house the other night without my trusty bedroom AC or even fans to blow the hot air around. But as I mentioned earlier, summer here is a short three month season, as opposed to the year round SoCal heat wave. I’ll learn my microburst protocol and hopefully be a little less freaked when the next one inevitably comes (predictions are for storms tomorrow). And I’ll get ready for fall, and cool weather and sweaters. And maybe lighting that fireplace in the basement, and cozying up with some apples, and a kitten. And perhaps a wolfhound. The adventure continues.
The end, for now
What is the opposite of “moving?” I think it must be “still.” And at this moment, I can’t think of a more beautiful word, a more desired state of being. Under the waterfall, my feet swaddled in puffy clouds, garbed in a simple, ethereal yet slimming raiment, with only the sound of sunshine and lollipops buzzing in my ears. Still.
Remember the time I sold my house in California where I had lived my entire life, and packed all my worldly goods and moved to lovely, but oh so different New England? And I settled in, and I wore boots and learned to shovel wee bits of snow and got promoted and did, like, 3 jobs at once, and felt content and happy and finally, at last, settled, resettled. A backwards Pilgrim, as it were.
I remember! So clearly. I mean, it was only about 7 months ago! And yet, settled as I was, it was always the plan that my initial move here wouldn’t be long term. I had taken a 10 month lease in a well-managed and amenity rich townhouse, always with the knowledge that the end game was home ownership.
But it was a bit trickier than I had foreseen. Timing was problematic. To go beyond my lease left me vulnerable to a very steep rent increase. To break it early required a minimum of 60 days’ notice and a ridiculously steep penalty. The goal was to time it perfectly. Having sold in the L.A. market I expected to enter into this race in a favored position. I had been watching the local real estate for months on Zillow and fully assumed I would come in on favorable level. But the Metro West Boston real estate market was a notoriously tough nut to crack!
I didn’t know that Boston and the surrounding suburbs was the third toughest real estate market in America, behind only New York City and San Francisco. I wasn’t aware that the medium price in the area I was renting in and worked in, Waltham MA, and the even more desirable border towns I had come to love, Lexington and Arlington, were so far priced out of my league that the only house within my range was under 800 square feet and had no closets! And I actually bid on it! Over asking price! And cried when I didn’t get it. Who needs closets, asks the crazy lady with 14 pairs of boots?
So, reality, as well as realty, finally reared its practical little head. And I set my sights out a little further, to Framingham. Initially I had resisted Framingham, because it was farther out than I wanted to be, about 25 miles west of Boston and 13 miles from work. And it was admittedly, on the face of it, less charming than the lovely town of Waltham I had been living in, with its beautiful town common, historic mansions, farm stands and surprisingly, a quite fabulous restaurant row.
Framingham is much more suburban. It reminded me in some ways of the San Fernando Valley, with malls and parking lots and a Loews and Cineplex. And at first, I resisted that idea. I didn’t make this huge life change to eat at PF Changs, if that makes any sense. But then, I found a darling house, in a sweet, extremely charming neighborhood. With two fireplaces, and a possibly haunted basement and a sunporch. And it needs love and it needs money put into it, but wait! There’s a Trader Joe’s! And a Whole Foods! And a historic downtown and a town common and lakes and ponds and farm stands all waiting to be explored. I started to feel much better about living in the ‘ham (as the locals call it).
The story of how I got the house, and the serendipity surrounding that, and the wrangling and negotiating and multi mini dramas swirling around me for the last 60 days is a tale for another time. I closed last week; it felt like we wrestled down to the wire. The work being done to the house has involved intense levels of coordination; the house had been vacant for a year and it needed some TLC. Over the past 8 days I’ve project managed a troop of electricians, a painter, a handyman, pest controller and cleaning crew into a beautifully choreographed dance. We’re at the tail end. There’s two nights left before I leave this townhouse.
If any of this sounds easy, I haven’t done a good job of telling the story. It has been hard, really, really hard. As always, I am incredibly grateful to the wonderful and extraordinary love and support of family and friends. I’m not always graceful or smart or logical, or even cheerful. Thank God for the crew that listens to me doubt and complain, and renders advice even when they know I may not listen to them, and loves me anyway in spite of my flaws.
I am frankly exhausted. I haven’t slept for what feels like weeks, my body hurts from lifting and hauling, and I’m pretty sure my boxes are having box babies and laughing at me behind my back. Daisy has been a brat for days, she doesn’t understand why things are in such disarray and I’ve been so cranky, she knows something is amiss. And I’ve tried to explain to her, yes we are moving again, but this time is going to be the last time for, I hope, a long while. And we’re going to have two fireplaces, and space, and privacy and a yard, and, yep, Trader Joe’s is in the near vicinity. And we’re going to get past the pain of moving, and settle in. Again. And we’re going to be blessedly home at last, and beautifully, wonderfully, still.
The end, for now