So...we're officially in the market for a new house. Well, a house, period. We've been living in the same three-story townhouse since we got married almost eight-and-a-half years ago. We went with our real estate agent (Ida Lynn Stox, if you're wondering) to take a look at a couple of houses just outside of Robersonville last night. Why Robersonville, you ask? Well, my wife Mary teaches at the middle school there, and has done so for the past five years. She really likes the school, but she's getting pretty tired of the long commute (about 35 minutes one-way from where we currently live) -- especially after a crazy-long day (sometimes she's there for 12 hours or more, depending on what's going on after school). Plus, we're just both tired of the apartment-style living (even though we're homeowners and not renters).
We were sitting here talking about what we did and didn't like about the houses we saw, and what we'd like to have in a new house. The one major change for our next place is that we'll almost certainly be living in the country. Our townhouse is right on the edge of the city, and everything's close and super-convenient -- except where Mary works, that is. For those of you who don't know us (or maybe you know us, and don't know us that well), Mary and I grew up very differently. It's complicated, so I'll let you read it in our own words...
MARY: In my early years I grew up in the country outside of an extremely small North Carolina town called Parkton. The first house I remember living in was the "Blue House." I lived there for the first five years of my life until my parents divorced, although I only remember little snippets. When my dad remarried, we went to live with my stepmom and her kids in Eastover, North Carolina, while they planned for and built a log house across the road from the Blue House. My stepmom's house was kinda big, and had a really big yard. Once the log house was mostly complete, we moved in. I had my own room in the new house, even though there now six kids. At first, my room had walls and insulation, but no sheet rock. I was used to playing outside in a pine forest with only one neighbor close enough to see. There were no other kids nearby, so I just played with my sisters. My grandma lived down the road and my dad had a herd of cows he raised as a hobby. My grandma was big into gardening and flowers, and so her old farmhouse had an awesome yard. When I was in the sixth grade, we went to live with our mom in Louisville, Kentucky. It was my first time living in an apartment and also my first time living in a big city. We lived in the "Seminary Village" which was the housing projects for the Southern Baptist seminary. I made friends with all the kids that lived in the apartments and we played on the playgrounds. We lived in Louisville for about a year, then moved to New Port Richey, Florida, where we lived in the parsonage next to the church where my stepfather was the minister of education and youth. There were no neighbors nearby, but we were in the middle of town, so shopping was really convenient. The beach was only a mile and a half away, so we went often. We lived there a year and a half before moving to a duplex in Fayetteville, North Carolina. We stayed there for nine months, and I had lots of neighborhood friends. The duplex was next-door to Snyder Memorial Baptist Church and I was at church all the time. There was a neighborhood park where I would meet friends, and we would go for runs. Then my stepdad got a pastorate job in Dubois, Wyoming. We lived in the parsonage, a trailer with an addition, which was in a residential area. The neighborhood had only one paved road. I had one friend who lived within walking distance. I walked to school and to my part-time job at the gas station/ice cream shop. Because I lived in town, I had a lot of freedom as a ninth grader. It was a beautiful setting with mountains in the distance, but there wasn't really much to do there. No shopping malls, no theater, no skating rink, no bowling alley -- nothing! When Mom and my stepdad split up, we moved to Greenville, North Carolina. We had to move into my grandparents' two-bedroom apartment where Mom and all three of us girls had to share one room. It was super-cramped, no privacy whatsoever, but kinda cool because we had a pool. Then Mom got an apartment across from the projects on B's Barbeque Road, but it wasn't safe to play outside, and as a sophomore in high school, I was too cool to play anyway. My only school friend lived in Farmville, where I went to high school. When Mom saved up enough money, she bought a house in Farmville in a mixed neighborhood -- sort of on the wrong side of the tracks, but it wasn't scary. At least Farmville had fast-food restaurants and a Food Lion, and my friend had a car so she would pick me up. I spent my years before marriage (and in college) living in apartments around Greenville, sometimes with roommates, sometimes by myself, and one year in the dorms. We bought our current townhouse before we got married, and I lived here by myself for about a month. I liked this townhouse better than the other places we looked at, because it has trees out front, birds and squirrels, a fireplace, and a unique third-story bonus room. We also have a big patio compared to most apartment-style houses. When I think back to the coolest, most memorable houses I've ever been in, they usually are in the country, and they either have awesome views of mountains or it's nothing but nature out the windows. I get a sense of peace and inspiration from trees and birds and flowers and animals, so I think I'm leaning towards a place in the country, or at least in a more isolated, "foresty" area.
JASON: My story's not quite so interesting. From the time I was born to the time we got married (twenty-five years later), I lived in the same place, a double-wide house just outside of Winterville, North Carolina. We didn't live in a neighborhood by any stretch of the imagination. Our road was almost exactly a mile long, and on either side of it you'd have a house then a crop field, a house, a crop field, a pig farm, a house, etc. We had neighbors on either side of us, but we weren't really close with them. We basically just coexisted with them, generally peacefully. I was an only child, and there weren't really any kids to play with on my road, so I spent a lot of time indoors entertaining myself. When on the rare occasion that the neighbors' grandchildren would come to visit them and would come to our door and invite me to play, I would usually decline their offers, preferring to play by myself than with "strangers." (I didn't yet get it, that strangers are only strangers till you get to know them. I like to think I've progressed a little bit since then.) More often than not, my adventurous, fun-loving grandma -- who lived directly behind me and my parents on the same lot -- was my play partner. Every few weeks or so, my aunt and uncle would come to visit Grandma, and they had two kids very close to my age (one older and one younger than me). My cousin Michael and I would often play inventive games of Hide And Seek, War, and the like in the overgrown brush of my grandma's back yard. I liked living in the country for the most part -- it was quiet, nobody really bothered you. But being an only kid, it was also a bit lonely. We did most of our "living" -- school, church, work, groceries, shopping, etc. -- in town (Greenville) which was a good ten minutes away; so that could occasionally be inconvenient. But since I didn't know any different, I never really thought much about it. After we got married, I moved into the townhouse we had bought together, where Mary was already living. And here we still are. I like living in the city for some reasons -- convenience to grocery stores, shopping, and restaurants, short drive to work, etc. -- and don't like it for other reasons -- the noise of ambulances, fire engines, and police cars; the intimidating proximity of apartment-style living; and fear of crime (nothing's actually happened to us since we've been here, but I can't shake my paranoia). Like Mary, I'm ready for a change.
So we made a "Pros And Cons Of Living In The Country" list. Now we just have to figure out what's most important to us. Here's what we came up with. Feel free to put your two cents' worth in if you're for or against country living, and/or if you can speak from experience to help us out.
Can Play Music As Loud As We Want
Don't Have To Deal With As Much Traffic
We Can Get A Lot More House For Our Money
We Could Have A Garden/Lawn
We Can See The Stars
No Intrusive Homeowner's Association (With Excessive Rules)
We Could Get A Dog (But Don't Tell The Cats!)
No Quick Trips To The Grocery Store
No Fast Food Runs
No Pizza Delivery
Longer Response Time In The Event Of An Emergency
Longer Commute To Work For One Or Both Of Us
We Have To Mow Our Own Lawn
Roads/Utilities Take Longer To Get Cleared/Repaired After A Storm Or Natural Disaster
Slow Or Limited Internet Access