The house is too big for us. Four bedrooms. Three of them are empty. A big basement with a ping pong table we no longer use, shelves of old college books and high-school projects, piles of kids' sports equipment, and a room full of tools that I don't remember how to use.
Then there's the yard. Almost an acre. I took care of it until the middle of last summer when I finally gave up and hired a company to spray and fertilize and a local guy to cut the grass. All that gets expensive. Honestly, we have paid off our mortgage (yes, we've been homeowners for over 30 years!). But there are the real-estate taxes. Of course I want to support education, our community and the development of our kids. But it gives me heart palpitations to write the check for the school tax. That bill alone slices off more than 10 percent of our annual income.
|Not our house; our shed|
Theoretically, we could probably afford to live in our old house for the rest of our lives. We could certainly continue to live here in town if we downsized to a smaller house, or relocated over to the big age-restricted development where people go from all around the county.
We know a few people who live there. A couple of them are younger than we are. But we got talking to a woman at B's church last week. She told us how she had moved there with her husband after their kids left for college. They bought a condo, lived there for about three years, then got divorced and she moved to another condo in the next town over. She said she hated living in the age-restricted community. Yes, there were a few younger people there, even some kids, but the people she saw routinely walking along the sidewalks, or sitting in the dining room, were frail old women using walkers, sometimes dragging along even older, more debilitated men. It was all so depressing, she said. She had to move (and we wondered if it had something to do with her divorce).
So no age-restricted community for us, at least not for now. If only we knew where we wanted to go.
B and I have four kids between us, and they live in four different states. We have no grandchildren. So it's up to us to decide where we want to be. B wants to live somewhere near her favorite sister who is firmly settled in southeastern Pennsylvania (Amish country, although she's not Amish.) But her son who lives in South Carolina wants her to move down south. I'm leaning in that direction myself. I prefer warmer winters, which is why I go to Florida for a couple of weeks each January. But B is resistant. She claims she actually likes the cold weather and long winter days in the north. She doesn't like to drive in the snow. But she doesn't mind shoveling snow, and she likes how it gets dark early so you can go home and curl up in front of a fire, drinking hot tea and reading a book.
She also likes the idea of living in a real town, where you can walk to the stores and the coffee shops. But every place in the South seems to involve driving around through traffic on four-lane roads. Besides, what would we have in common with someone from South Carolina? They like football, car racing and guns. We like libraries and theater and ... okay, B likes church and there are plenty of churches in South Carolina, and I like golf, and there are plenty of golf course in South Carolina. But still, would we fit in?
So our latest idea? We're going to take a gap year -- like the kids do before college, or after college before they take their first real job. We're going to rent an apartment and travel around doing some touristy things and looking for our next place to settle.
But the fact is, we've been coming up with new ideas about every ten minutes. So what we'll be thinking tomorrow is anyone's guess. Meanwhile, the back liftgate on our less-than-two-year-old Subaru Forester broke on us, and our local dealer is trying to welsh on the warranty, so we have something else to worry about . . . but that's another story.
We know plenty of people who have bigger problems than we do. So save your sympathy and support for them. But still, could you take just a moment and wish us bit of luck for the next year? Thanks!
On the other hand, James Fallows says that the narrative of America going to hell is a constant throughout American history, especially in presidential election years. He recounts in The Atlantic how he traveled through the country and found that, despite what you hear about American decay and the unraveling of the nation, there are many examples of rapidly progressing civil and individual reinvention in towns and cities across the nation, from Fresno, CA, to Ajo, AZ, to Duluth, MN and Pittsburgh, PA.
Personally, I think it's easy to focus on the negatives -- there are certainly plenty of them around -- but I take heart in knowing that Americans are getting smarter. And I'll choose to believe what a man smarter than I am believes, for it was Warren Buffett who recently wrote:
“It’s an election year, and candidates can’t stop speaking about our country’s problems (which, of course, only they can solve). As a result of this negative drumbeat, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as well as they themselves do. That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history ... America’s economic magic remains alive and well."