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Trade Off

November 18, 2011

My mom was telling me how lucky I was to live in my neighborhood (n/b: she has never been a big fan of my house), and I agree I am lucky, but I also chose that. When she and my dad picked out houses for our family (which they did every 3-4 years when I was growing up), I’m certain their main criteria were: 1–schools and 2–size. We also lived almost entirely in new and newish houses. Her first look at my house was during my home inspection and yeah, and 80 year old house is not problem free; that may have colored her vision. The size of my family dictated that we lived in big houses, which tended to be located in rich neighborhoods and, after first grade when I walked to a neighborhood school, I basically never knew my neighbors and certainly did not play with them. Not a major loss for me, as I always had people to play with–they just all lived in my house.

When I was choosing a house to buy, though, I knew I needed to go for different criteria than my parents had used. As a teacher, I believe strongly that the major variable in a child’s education is the child, so I was not very concerned about school districts. As a former ex-pat snob, I am very critical of the EXPANSE of American homes, so I knew I could go for small. As a single working mother, I was eager to live close to middle and high schools so that my kids would be able to get themselves to and from school, not only on the days they sleep in (will that ever happen? asks the mom whose kids who have woken up at 6 a.m. their whole lives), but also when they want to stay after for this, that, or the other thing they forgot about. No transportation hurdles, just walking to school in the blowing snow problems. And I got all those. Or I chose all those–that verb is more apt.

Every attribute that I love in my home and neighborhood is traded for some other feature that I did not value as highly. I LOVE the character of an old house, but old houses also come with old plumbing and limited lighting and ONE bathroom only. My friendly neighbors are the tops, but if I didn’t want to know them or be known, this might be an uncomfortable spot. I characterize my neighborhood as “semi-urban” because we are close enough to many busineses that we can walk (and when the neighborhood was built, I am sure many people did not have a car or did not use one on a daily basis), but that closeness also comes with small yards and not much room in between houses, when I am taking care of my yard, I love that, but when I occassionally (like, once, annually, tops) lose it with my kids, I hope my neighbors aren’t close enough to hear it!

So I guess I am both lucky and gratified to have chosen the trade-offs I did, because I am still pretty thrilled with our situation. I should probably re-evaluate after a few decades, though, rather than a few years, and see if I still feel those choices were right for me. I have confidence that I will. Especially with neighbors who organize haunted houses and talent shows and fall festivals and outdoor movies. With snacks. Our small old houses must inspire us to get out of them!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Hannah permalink
    November 18, 2011 4:33 pm

    I’ve never been an “ex-pat snob” but I couldn’t agree with you more on the EXPANSE of American homes. Recently a friend mentioned the five bathrooms in his home and I just had to mentally shake my head. Who needs five bathrooms?!?!? I don’t even want to clean the two I have. And it never ceases to amaze me when I hear celebrities talk about overpopulation and the scarcity of world resources when they live in 10,000 plus square foot homes. I figure you only need that kind of space if you have 25 children.

    I would also like an update sometime on the effect your solar panels are having. I am wondering if the benefits are as noticeable in the wintertime. And do the “contributions” you made to the power grid come back to you now that you have to heat that home? I have 20 pine trees in my backyard so I’m pretty sure I don’t get enough sun to make such an installation practical but I love the idea and would like to use it if I am ever in the position to do so.

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