The first Monday

It’s a bright sunny day here in New England, on this strangely askew morning. The usual stream of cars cutting through our street is stilled. Last night, we sat down with our boys to talk through how life would be in this new era, at least for now. We all need structure, sunlight, exercise, good food, and some sort of meaningful work in our lives to stay mentally healthy. Here’s what’s happening in our family.

8 am – everyone up (including mom)
10 pm – in bed, screens off (can read)

Before Noon: (minimum)
1/2 hour exercise
2 hours learning

Before 6 pm:
1 hr outside/daylight
1/2 hr exercise (1 hr. total)
1 hr. chores (or parent approval) – we set up lists on Google Keep for this
2 hrs learning (4 hrs total)

Here’s the list of things that count as learning for your inspiration!

Adam and I are working full days, of course. Unfortunately, I woke up this morning with a pretty righteous cough. I keep checking to see if I also have shortness of breath. I have a very, very mildly elevated temperature (eg. 99.7). I called the office where I had a PCP, and she has left the office and they were deeply unhelpful “You need to pick a PCP.” “OK, who are my options?” “You can Google it online.” So I also don’t have a PCP. On the plus side, this is an opportunity for me to find a better practice. (They were also pretty unhelpful in non-pandemic times.) On the minus, there is still no testing.

I’m trying to focus on what people would need to know about my work, in case I worsen or need to stop working and, ya know, rest.

On the plus side, Thane is working on his German and Grey completed an essay this morning! Both are now exercising – bike riding and basketball playing! (Thump thump cough shoot).

Learning German on Duolingo

Our house

Our home in the snows of last year
Our home in the snows of last year

When we were in the house hunt, one of the houses we looked at was a house in Woburn that had been built in 1720 or so. It had a weird layout and a rather disastrous crack in the chimney that ran up the center of the house, and we didn’t end up offering on it… but I thought it was awfully cool. Paul Revere would have ridden past that house when it was new built. So when we found this house (with a lovely lack of disastrous masonry), it didn’t seem all *that* old. The decor was dominantly an 80s horror (helloooo shag carpet and paneling!). The date on the paperwork said it was ~1900. I had hoped we might find some cool old treasures when we moved in, but the prior occupants did an exceptionally good job of clearing out the attic and basement. There were no boxes of old letters we might find, and no ghosts have haunted our sleep. (Well, except the ghost of fraudulently uninstalled insulation.)

But as we have very gradually updated rooms, we’ve found these hints of how old our house really is. Most of the walls, under the ugly paneling, are plaster and lathe covered by some truly hideous wallpaper. We had a very brief oral history from the prior owner, which mostly told us the house had been in the same hands for nearly fifty years and they’d raised seven children here. Also, her late husband had done all the “improvements” himself, with his two left hands comprised entirely of thumbs. (Ok, maybe that was my interpretation…)

These eagles are now hidden behind the drywall in Thane's room
These eagles are now hidden behind the drywall in Thane’s room

And then she was gone to Florida, and the history of the house felt like a blank slate.

But as I got a little more involved with Stoneham – as part of the bikeway kerfuffle and got to know the Historical Commission folks. One of them came by one morning with a full writeup on my house. We spent the morning in fascinating discussion of the building.

The Nobility Hill Historic District
The Nobility Hill Historic District

It was built in 1898, and the funds to build it were provided by the guy (Lorenzo Hawkins) who built the beautiful white mansion right up the hill from me. That lovely house is a anchor of the Nobility Hill Historic district (which I learned about at the same time). The house, at nearly 120 years old, has been owned by ten owners, and four of those ten were in the 40s. The builder was a man named Parker G. Webber, who also lived in the house for two years after he built it. It changed hands for $100 in 1944. There was also this really cool list of the occupations and names of the people who lived in the house on various dates. In 1943 the house was occupied by Eleanor Keenan (34, housewife), James Keenan (36, bus driver) and father-in-law Joseph Keenan (69, shoe worker). Likely there were a passel of kids then too.

More questionable wallpaper choices
More questionable wallpaper choices

Glancing up and down the list for 1948, I noticed a 96 year old resident in my dear neighbor’s house down the street… a 96 year old named Parker G. Webber. He lived with what must have been a second wife, Alice F. Webber (77, housewife). So fifty years after he built my home, he was living in close sight of it. He must have spent the greater part of his life on this block – perhaps he built most of the houses in it, and not just mine. It’s this wonderful connection to imagine the care that must have crafted my home from a man who was proud enough to live in it and willing to look at his work every single day thereafter.

By the way, the list of occupations is fascinating. There are tree surgeons, a “dier”, a “grinder”, a “burner”, someone mysteriously in the “egg bus.” (A house on Franklin Street has a prestidigitator. Now that would be some exciting history!)

After the visit (well, some time after) I got around to signing up for a Historical Marker for the house ($55 is the bargain of the century, and they’ll help you fill it out). In New England, this isn’t a particularly old building, but 120 years old is not pathetic, either. The commission says anything over 50 years qualifies, and this most certainly beat that. I settled on the name “Parker G. Webber” to grace the sign, in honor of the man who had built the house with such craftsmanship a century and a score ago. The signs are all hand made (and come with the research!), so it took a little while before I got it. But I just found it on my porch this week, and I can’t wait to get it placed in a prominent location on my house!

Thanks for building my home, Parker
Thanks for building my home, Parker

The macro and the micro

There’s been a lot written and talked about regarding housing and real estate lately. Since most of us live somewhere, most of us have some sort of stake in “the housing market”, whether as renters or mortgage-holders. (Perhaps some of you out there are really homeowners — I only know one or two people who really are.)

Well, after thinking about it for years, starting and chickening out twice, and trying to figure out what the heck the “right” thing to do really was, A. and I found the house we wanted to live in about 11 months ago. 10 months ago we moved in. The part of me that reads WAAAAY too many financial websites wonders if we did the right thing. Housing prices have fallen since then, so maybe we could’ve gotten a better deal. But on the other hand, financing has gotten harder to secure, even with really really good credit ratings. A’s recent job changes might actually matter now, as opposed to being pretty much a non-issue when we bought this house. The interest rate is a little higher. Etc.

But the part of me that actually lives in this house knows that we made exactly the right choice. I love it. And moreover, I love the community I live in.

I was raised in a town that had a post office, a tavern, a general store and two churches. While they were all walking distance, nothing else was. The nearest grocery store was 17 miles away (over a mountain pass — for real). The nearest gas station was 5. Let’s not discuss how far it was to the nearest Starbucks.

I am absolutely gobsmacked and enamoured of how much I can walk to in this town. This is an incomplete list, but here are some things that Grey (2 years old) and I (nearly 9 months pregnant) can and have walked to: the library, post office, town hall/voting center, playground, elementary school, our bank, a used book store, ice cream stand, a live theater, a bicycle store, a learning toys store, Grey’s dance studio, Dunkin’ Donuts, Honeydew Donuts, independent bakeries, grocery store, Walgreens, 3 salons, farm stand, massage studios (multiple), 2 sushi restaurants, Indian restaurant, innumerable Italian restaurants, liquor store, billiards hall, our chiropractor, used sporting goods store, 3 different medical specialties (hoping never to need the hematology and oncology clinic, thanks), and lots of other things.

This morning I wanted to get an eye exam. I have yet to be impressed by an independent optometrist, so I decided that at least Pearl Vision would be professional and not obnoxious. So I walked there (less than a mile). On my way, I stopped at the bookstore to buy a book in case I had to wait long for an exam. On the way back I stopped at a local bakery and bought a delicious bagel and some snackies. I stopped by the farm stand to see what they sold (mostly flowers and decorations — no produce sadly).

This was entirely plausible for me, even in my gravid condition.

How COOL is that?

And that’s not all that’s neat about our location. A longish walk (too far for toddlers) the other direction is the Middlesex Fells reservation and the Stone Zoo. Oh yeah, and we’re less than a mile from I93 and maybe 2 miles from I95.

There’s a carillon that plays on the hour in the town commons. Every time I hear it, I think what a cool place this is to live.

And just to add a topping to my conviction that I’m living where I want to, this is what greeted me this morning as I began my walk. These pictures is taken in front of our house:

Gobble gobble!
Gobble gobble!

Why don't you come inside and join me for dinner?
Why don't you come inside and join me for dinner?