By Nicholas S. Racheotes
In my corner of the American demographic, all sorts of real and imaginary homeowners live. To categorize them by age and wealth: First, we have the newly minted college graduates dragging the chain of indebtedness they formed in school back into their parental homes (at least until the squatters are on their feet). A sure sign of their standing tall is when they get their feet off the coffee table, find a well-paying job, and get the—well, get out of Mom and Dad’s house.
Next come the “starter home people.” They made their way into a house too small for the family they intend to have just as soon as they reach the fifty-yard line in their mortgage payments. No fear—if the divorce bug doesn’t bite them first, their next stop will be an eight- to ten-room suburban palace complete with a nursery, a man cave, a sewing room, an office, a garden for pastime cultivation, and an expansive lawn.
If the suburbanites stay healthy, wealthy, and wise enough to remain together, they will out-shrink that albatross of a luxury barn and head for an urban condo. Here, there’s no room for Junior and Miss to crash with a significant other or an insignificant pet, clamor to be put on the cell-phone plan, or forever take showers when the elders need the bathroom.
Of course, if all goes ill, the second-to-last stop is assisted living. I love this term. What it really means is that for five figures a month, you get to share a room with someone you’ll never really know, eat food you never would have touched in your unassisted life, and hang out in a common room with people who make you wish you were back in your starter home awakening for the nocturnal feeding of the new baby.
So, in the circle of standard American real-estate life, where does the “dream home” business come in?
Why, naturally, if and when you secure a second home.
The mythical second home isn’t all about amenities or luxury finishes; now we’re talking geography. Northerners who can’t face another February on the snow side of Dixie head down south. How far south? That is the question. I believe many can be found wasted away in Margaritaville. Other landlubbers who want to be up to their pectorals in some ocean or another head for the seashore, be it to the east, south, or west. The standing joke is that all of Cape Cod is for sale—if not for sail—every autumn. And I can’t forget those who desperately want to “go country.” Beguiled by memories of camping and mountain climbing in their youth, they dip into the online real-estate listings to find a rural oasis. Can’t you just smell the wood smoke from the blaze in the fireplace?
“Bless this house, oh Lord we pray. Keep it safe both night and day.”
With a mixture of pleasure and sadness, I’m recalling vacations spent in motel rooms where the smell of disinfectant didn’t quite mask the odor of prior occupants. Before falling asleep, I’d wonder when and if my pillow would be nearby in a second-home bedroom of my own. Well, it happened. And it was worth the wait.
Now the cross-breeze whispers in the curtains. There are no streetlights to challenge the stars for brightening the sky. An owl has decided to spread his gospel across the backyard. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Suddenly, I’m mind-traveling to those places where sisters and brothers take their rest under a bridge, find recreation in a public park, and dream among other sleepers in a shelter. Their dream homes might not be grand or nestled among sand dunes on the coast; more likely they provide security and simple comforts.
It’s not a happy thought, but it does come with another. There’s a bit of wording over the front door that testifies to the power of simple thoughts: “Bless this house, oh Lord we pray. Keep it safe both night and day.”
The next morning, but not too early, children splash in the pool next door. Coffee is brewing and bacon is frying. Someone is walking a dog and talking through her smile to a neighbor. “Another beautiful day!”
I guess you really can dream a house into a home.
— V —
Nick Racheotes is a product of Boston public schools, Brandeis University, and Boston College, from which he holds a PhD in history. Since he retired from teaching at Framingham State University, Nick and his wife, Pat, divide their time between Boston, Cape Cod, and the Western world.