After three-and-a-half years sequestered in Portland’s Deering Center neighborhood, a Rockwellian family utopia north of the peninsula, my wife and I recently broke out of our trance, sold our 2,200 square foot house (with big, shady yard), and moved the family back to Munjoy Hill! To rent.
In early 2012, we were feeling the pinch of 1,100 square feet on our newly expanded family. The toddler had started toddling all over the place and required a (totally disparate) set of toys of her own which of course needed to be spread out as liberally as possible. Not to mention her baby sister's ExerSaucer that took up half the kitchen.
We had literally no yard (though we were proud of the little garden beds we reclaimed from pockets of crumbled cement and broken glass between the front of the house and the sidewalk). The local Elementary school was “failing” national standards. During snow ban parking, we had to park 6 blocks away and carry the children back in the driving snow, (and have the cars out of the lot by 6:30 am the next day). There HAD, we figured, to be a BETTER WAY.
So we sold our little place on Turner St. and bought a c.1875 farmhouse right near Evergreen Cemetery in child-friendly Deering Center. We bought a large secondhand cedar playset, a secondhand SUV, even a secondhand lawn mower.
Our girls walked to the "good school", got ice cream from Jet Video on hot afternoons, made friends with the neighbor girls, trick-or-treated the beautiful victorian homes, ran barefoot through the green backyards, and that should have been that. We were belted in, saddled with debt: two car loans, home equity, house loan, student loans, inertia.
There were entire rooms we didn't even use except on the weekends or when company came. We had a wonderful wood stove, we renovated both tired bathrooms and I installed reclaimed bowling alley lanes into the kitchen as thick maple countertops. In our spare time, we painted every room, stripped the entire staircase of 7 layers of paint and rebuilt the living room wall. We tiled, installed cabinets, installed custom lighting. We toiled at landscaping, yard care, snow and ice removal, fence repair, small engine repair, furnace maintenance, and squeezed in things like teaching our 6-year-old to ride her bike.
This was to be the start of the Long Haul. The kids' childhood home that they would come back to after college. A house we'd pay off in 2042.
But after about a year we noticed there were no seagulls. Or fog horns.