January 30, 2012

A home with stories to tell, past and present~

Take a tour of our entire 18thc. home to period musick HERE~
Our beautifully restored period house is now FOR SALE~
This blog is first and foremost the story of my life in an 18thc. house in New England---the love of an old house. Today I am feeling pensive and a little forlorn. This isn't self pity, and it's not a rant---well maybe just a little bit of a rant. The best way I can describe it is that I feel as if the stuffing was kicked out of me.

Today I went around the corner to our little post office to send out a package. Just a few doors down from the post office, and also just around the corner and up the hill from my little brown house is an antique shop---1 floor and a cozy attic filled with the stuff of everyday life in New England for well over 100 years, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Dusty treasures and some junk. This shop is a fixture in our small town, having been open for well over 20 years. This is not one of those multi-dealer malls, but a 'mom and pop' establishment run by neighbors who also live just down from their shop on Main Street. They have decided it's time to retire and close up the business. There is a for sale sign by the road, and I was about to drive by when I decided it had been awhile, and I would just stop in. Stock hadn't been changing much for several years,  and I thought it would be oddly comforting in a way to just say hi and wander around for a few minutes, given the way I was feeling.
 Yeah, real forlorn---Having flashbacks in my mind to snippets of days I've spent here in this small New Hampshire town since I bought the rundown, 230 year old cape almost 15 years ago---moving into the rundown cape with my little dog on a rainy September day in 1998, after driving 1000 unknown miles in an ugly, rusted and ramshackle mid-80's van stuffed to bursting with much of my stuff and looking like the Beverly Hillbillies, to get here. So many memories. They were crowding willy nilly in my head. So many happy times, exhausted times, and yes, sad times too. I was alone you see. I was newly widowed, had no money---not much of anything really when I came here, except a heart full of dreams and a determination to rebuild my life after the suicide of my then-husband who had suffered from severe hereditary bi-polar disorder.

I got out of the car, bundled against the cold. I saw a crooked hand lettered sign on the antique shop door: "EVERYTHING IS 50% OFF". I went in, a bell attached to the door cheerily ringing as I opened it. I said hello to Mrs. R and her husband, who were helping customers. They know me well. As I wandered down aisles I had an overwhelming desire to cry, and I had to make a deal with  myself not to let any tears fall until I was back in the car. I didn't find anything I wanted to buy---that wasn't really the point, and anyway I couldn't afford even the most terrific of sale items at present.

Three years ago Adam lost his job in the bad economy. He tried, and continues to try to find a new job in his field every day. Despite a degree and years of experience, a good job has not been forthcoming. In due time he took the only job he could get---as an assistant teacher of special needs children at the high school level. It's an exhausting job requiring a lot of responsibility and patience. It can be dangerous. Some kids are violent. Some on drugs. Some from really unfortunate families. Now among his many accomplishments (accomplishments that he never talks or brags about), Adam holds black belts in martial arts, but he is a lot like Mr. Miyagi---he knows how to talk to kids and relate to them and calm them. My Adam was a 'natural' and well loved by the kids and teachers alike. Now, here's where the rant comes in. I will preface it by saying this is not a whine-fest or pity-party. I guess you could call it justifiable outrage. The school pays him only a bit over $250. a week take home, for full time employment, and no insurance for me. It's ridiculous, it's miserable, and it's tremendously insulting. To really add insult to injury, Adam's reviews were top-notch---the highest possible. They gave him a small raise. In the next breath they said "Oh, by the way, we aren't paying for snow days or holidays and days when there is no school anymore"---effectively taking away the miniscule raise  and then some. When you try everything you can think of and you live very simply, and always have, and you can't pay your basic living-expenses bills you become very bitter and angry. I have dreams of telling the powers that be at this school to take their job and, well, you know.
I hate to see my husband being taken advantage of every darn day. THEY should try and live on that! YOU should try and live on that! The people caring for and teaching your child need a living wage---all of them!
The last 3 years have ground us to dust. In addition to not being able to pay life-sustaining bills,  just  for good measure, almost every week, we better yell "INCOMING!"---the 13 year old cars are breaking down. In the last 3 years every single appliance we owned permanently died. So did the 20 year old furnace. So did the water heater...and the old woodstove.
You just want to scream. You want to give up. You want to yell at God---I have yelled at God. (You get to the point where you wonder if there is a God).
We were getting by, not well, and not comfortably, but a bit better, with some help from Adam's parents---Until, with no warning at all his mother decided she wanted him to do something he couldn't do---it was wrong, just wrong, and tried to blackmail him using the financial help----Nasty, icky situation. (I know we can't be the only ones with dysfunctional families...)
This isn't the first time she's done something similar. She is well, manipulative....very, very manipulative---and punitive.
We didn't cave. We could not. It was out of the question. For better or for worse, we were on our own...permanently. No more contact. It was a decision a long time coming and regretfully, but necessarily made. (They have to live with trust forever broken and what they have done to a loving and hardworking son).
So we are desperately trying to survive on our under-$300. a week. The strain of the past 3 years has been unbearable and painful beyond expressing.
If we were sitting on our butts doing nothing that would be one thing, but we have literally tried everything, and I mean everything, as well as done every odd job we both could to help ourselves---from the stupid and ridiculous, to the even more stupid and hopeless. No matter how hard we try, everything blows up in our faces.
Well, that's the rant. Time to move on.

There I was in the old-timey antique shop, filled with nostalgia---for that place, for this small town and it's people, but mostly for all those memories in my little brown house. Hard to come here alone and then work restoring a dump of a house by myself for years? You betcha (Yeah, I'm from the Midwest).
Someone once asked me if I knew ahead of time about all the work, fear, pain, deprivation and disappointments I would experience, would I have come here and bought this house? Again, YOU BETCHA---in a New York second---for every minute of the pain and fear and loneliness of those years is trumped by memories warm and golden, and treasured beyond words.
Yes, I would come here again, and buy this house, and work and suffer and hope. This is where I ultimately met and married my darling Adam. This is home, and a wonderful home it is, filled with love and memories, and always welcoming to friends old and new.
 "I have made a connection with the flow of time..." This is the beginning of a quote I wrote on a wall in my entry more than 14 years ago, and that remains there today.

I left the shop and was home in 2 minutes. The yorkies greeted me snorting and jumping around like I'd been gone 30 days instead of 30 minutes!
Home.
The few minutes in the tiny post office where "everybody knows your name", the meander through the warm antique shop run by kind neighbors, and now sitting here by a sunny window with wavy glass writing this have indeed been comforting to me. This is my town. This is my home. This is my life.
A lot of the anger went away. I was happy to have it replaced by well...a wistfulness. I could feel at least a little surge of new hope.