Column: Building a Forever Nest for Two

Just when it was beginning to feel like we would never close on our new house, our lawyer called to let us know the date and time. It was really going to happen. We went to her office on a sunny Friday morning, bursting with excitement. 

Nancy and Paul at their new home sweet home.
Paul and Alexandra make a toast to our new house on moving day.

After writing a large check and signing the requisite documents, we walked away with the keys to our castle. The movers delivered our furniture and belongings from storage in Connecticut the next day. Our daughter, Alexandra, and her family came to celebrate after the moving truck had left. They brought takeout Chinese food and bubbly to toast the occasion.

Stylish and attractive, our three-bedroom ranch house sits on a grassy lot, surrounded by woods and a creek. A giant shed in the back is tailor-made for Paul’s organic gardening. For him, the growing season continues year round, and he has already planted garlic and cilantro.

Moving from a larger house to a smaller one took organization and flexibility. Family and friends in Connecticut helped us pack and organize, offering moral support along the way. We donated, sold, gave away and threw away rooms full of belongings before putting our home of 34 years on the market last summer. It was hard to leave people we care about and all the memories, but the time was right.

After a three-decades-long career in community journalism I was privileged to get to know incredibly interesting people and attend all sorts of newsworthy events. I especially miss the Easton Courier team and now read eastoncourier.news from afar. Although small in size, Easton is mighty when it comes to generating news.

Once we sold our house in Connecticut at the end of August, Paul and I set off for the New York Finger Lakes to begin a new chapter. Alexandra moved here 10 years ago to work in the wine industry. She fell in love with this magical region of long lakes, waterfalls, rolling hills and family farms. 

The same natural wonders captured our imagination when we would come to visit. The stunning landscape and friendly people attracted us to want to live here. Ideally, we would have purchased a house and moved in as soon as we sold our house in Connecticut. 

But in the post-pandemic world of low housing inventories and soaring costs, it didn’t work out that way. We weren’t considered qualified buyers, able to compete with other competitive buyers, until we sold our old house and had the money in the bank.

That meant we could keep tabs on the market on online sites but couldn’t go seriously house hunting until we got here. We quickly discovered a lack of suitable houses in our chosen location and price range. Many desirable properties are snapped up as Airbnbs, and others sell quickly and well over asking price. We looked at several houses, but none of them were quite right. 

Then our broker let us know about a house coming on the market that seemed perfect for us. We went to see it and perfect it was; we immediately made a strong offer. It was accepted, but we still had to wait to close on it. Closings take longer here than in Fairfield County.

Paul enriches the soil in the raised bed garden.
Harvest at Damiani Wine Cellars’ Production Plant.

Alexandra and her husband, Jimmer, welcomed us into their house until we could move into ours. Covid showed us it’s still the boss when Alex, the rest of her family and Paul all got sick in the first weeks after we arrived. I was thankfully spared.

Eventually, they got well and things settled into a routine. The seasons changed from summer to fall. When it got chilly, we switched from cottons to flannels and wools, and donned jackets and gloves.

We think of all the people who moved out of New York City and other urban areas to stay with their families during the Covid shutdown. The fear and doubt surrounding the pandemic was far worse than the uncertainty we experienced in our search for a new house. We chose to move and can only imagine the stress and disorientation for people who suddenly found themselves uprooted, and how hard it was for children and pets. 

Easton friends whose adult kids and families moved in for a time shared similar experiences to what we lived through. Tight quarters had limitations but also created lasting bonds for the lucky ones like us with welcoming families. 

Scores of people recognized the advantages of open space as a respite place during the isolation and social distancing phase of the pandemic. Many went on to buy suburban houses. The sluggish housing market since 2008 switched almost overnight to a brisk seller’s market.

Our dining room table is ready to welcome guests to dinner. We’re still deciding where to hang the artwork.

Living out of a suitcase in tight quarters had its challenges, but we worked hard to make the best of the situation. We played with our busy toddler grandson and watched him so his parents could get things done. Paul made delicious family dinners; I did the laundry and cleaned the house.

Two years later, the market remains volatile as mortgage rates rise and inventory continues its downward trajectory. The affordable housing shortage and national labor shortage create a vicious cycle. Without a crystal ball, no one can know if the market will stay hot or cool down in the months to come. 

On our last night with the family, Alexandra told us how much she had loved having us stay with them and was going to miss us very much. Her words meant the world to us and made it all worthwhile. Fortunately, however, we are now living only minutes away from her. Our new house is also a shorter drive for our other two grandchildren and their parents to visit.

Since we moved into our new home, we have been greeted by unexpectedly warm daytime temperatures in the 60s and occasionally, even the 70s. The sunshine and unseasonable warmth are continuing into November. We are loving it.

The open-format family room and kitchen form the hub of our new house, a relaxed space where we spend most of our indoor time. The living room still contains moving boxes as we figure out where to put their contents. We got rid of our old couches and coffee table before we moved. Once we get a better feel for the place, we will buy new furniture that fits the décor. Our bedroom set fit better than expected. So did our formal dining table and chairs.

Enjoying nature in our new backyard.

The previous owners kept the house in exceptionally good condition. They chose calming shades of gray, sage green, almond and sea foam for the wall colors, accented by tasteful and understated window treatments and shades. They recently upgraded the landscaping and added a wall of arborvitae along the southern border. A creek runs behind and along the north side.

We are thankful that we were able to move at our age and stage of life and look back on our time with Alexandra and her family with joy and gratitude. In retrospect it whizzed by and left happy memories. 

Our relationship to our grandson is deepening even as we witness an explosion of his growth and language skills. All things considered, our time together is priceless.

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