There are lots of places like home.

Our time away from home was all about home.

Oliver and his friend used to eat Creemees every Wednesday.
Oliver and his friend used to eat Creemees every Wednesday.

We started in Vermont. I was sort of crushed by it. Unlike last summer where Vermont was wearing its sunshine finery it was grey and chilly for most of this visit. Last year we went tubing on the lake, to outdoor concerts, and BBQs at the yacht club (whatever you are picturing when you read the phrase yacht club you are incorrect- it is quite un yacht like.) This year we shivered. Even so as we branched onto Falls Rd at 11pm past the literal country store with its sign for Maple Creemees I began to cry. And it wasn’t 100% because I forgot to take my pills that day. It was for a time and place lost to us. It was for my little boys who had grown medium and a town which was a postcard come to life. It is a place where I knew individual trees and had helped veterans craft the message for their monuments. Now we were outsiders.

Don't those stairs look tiny?
Don’t those stairs look tiny?

Except of course we weren’t. In the light of day (slim and grey as it was) we were swallowed back. Breakfast on the farm, sitting by the pool, eating in restaurants owned by friends the farmers market. It was the same stuff, just a little colder. Steve sent me a video of the boys sliding down the stairs of city hall in Burlington after a lunch at Flatbread. The stairs had gotten smaller. Of course they hadn’t. It was the boys that had gotten bigger. Almost too big to slide. Walking with Oliver’s hand in mine he remembered things. So so many things. The video he filmed to educate crossing guards, the tree he fell from, the bridge he built, the favorite food spots, the trick or treating. He didn’t remember the days inside in the cold, or the time the smoke from a Montreal fire drove us inside from the playground. He didn’t remember all of the days that were the same as each other as we worried about what was for dinner and whined about bath time. We had frozen Vermont into its best bits. So I traveled the whole emotional spectrum as I drove the familiar roads past crumbling barns. My sense of place was lost, then found in memories. As usual I dragged my family to real estate showings. At the first house Oliver wept. Please, he pleaded, please can we move back. I didn’t bring him to see any other houses.

The boys found some of these eggs still warm under hens.
The boys found some of these eggs still warm under hens.

We decided to re-claim a little slice of Vermont. We would spend summers in Shelburne and all of the other seasons (which magically actually do reveal themselves as three) in Denver. So 15 minutes before we hit the road for the cape Steve and I whipped through a 2 acre property with a huge yard and woods to the river and decided to put in an offer. So much for putting our move in perspective. We drove for about 45 minutes in silence to make sure my excitement wasn’t going to unduly influence him.  We stopped at our friend’s farm to see her piglets and take 2 dozen gorgeous eggs to the cape. She calls her farm “Next Chapter Farm” which is perfect for her and, I felt, instructive to us. As we drove away Steve turned to me with a shining face. “I think we should do this. I think this would be really great for our family.”  So I sent the text and we made an offer. Two houses…and hopefully two homes.

Pretty much what we do at the beach.
Pretty much what we do at the beach.

As our rental car crunched on the gravel of the beach house driveway that evening I wondered if my mother would be there. For 14 years she would meet us at the end of the weathered grey walk making the same chirping excited sound as she reached both for a hug and a suitcase. Then last summer it was different when her partner was in the hospital and she on crossed the bridge from Boston to the cape one time all season. They both have houses here. It was where they met. This year he is as well as a 90 year old can be, walking the dunes down to the water, working, enjoying the ice cream. Even though there is no hospital she doesn’t live here anymore. She lives with him. When she leaves us to go to him she says she is headed home. Then she pauses in confusion. “I don’t know what to call it.” She tells me. But I know what she means. He is home to her.

Boy with fish spine
What freaking spine is that?

We stay for 2 weeks on the beach. The low tides are not quite low enough to find as many critters as usual, so Leo doesn’t kill any wildlife. This time he finds them washed up and dead. Decaying horseshoe crabs and smelly fish spines. It was a huge spine. Despite his scrubbing it had to leave the house as well. We host a few people. Cameron, who always sparks a debate in our family about whether he is a kid or an adult, brings a friend and they take the boys kayaking. Leo seems particularly dedicated to slotting people into age groups. At 9 almost 10 he has researched the phrase “tween” and decided that the majority of sources grant him that status. I am tempted to agree as he tries on teenagehood much more frequently than his unflappable brother. Finally he has a ranking system in place. Infant, toddler, child, tween, young teen, teen, young adult, adult, and old. It is a verbal version of Ombre, the divisions growing further apart and darker as he continues.

The not teen, not adult, my college friend, her daughter and lobstah.
The not teen, not adult, my college friend, her daughter and lobstah.

We have lunches on the deck with new friends and old standbys. Steve makes his office wherever he lands. We have a bonfire on the beach with five families.My father has been gone for 16 years and the best of his work and collection is out in the world. He has pieces at the Metropolitan Museum, the MFA, the Smithonian and many more. Including the cape basement. I hold my breath and head to down to the safe room to inventory my father’s art. This was once a collection that we curated together. (Not the new overused version of curated but the actual literal use of the word.) Now it is a chore. Or many chores. I photograph and label. I dust and sneeze. I think about legacy. What he left for us when he left us. Mostly I think about just getting this done and getting back to my book. I rarely read here, generally the house is full, vibrating with the breathe and plans of a dozen people. For all but a small handful of days it is just us here.

Who could get angry at that man? Not me. Not for long.
Who could get angry at that man? Not me.

My mother watches the boys one night while Steve and I head out to dinner. We start out with oysters in Wellfleet village. Or he has oysters. Despite my love of steamers and mussels oysters still feel like I am swallowing someone’s detached tongue. After wandering the shops and somehow managing to leave empty handed we drive back to Truro for dinner. We go to our favorite spot. The one where we decided to have the third kid that never came to be. The one where we held hands across the table because we couldn’t stay apart. This time we fight. It is so rare for us to fight that we barely know how to do it. I find myself aware of the family at the table next to us. I am worn thin and uncharitably begin judging them. I don’t know what they are doing here in the outer cape, which is scrubby both with pines and people. This family is polished. For all I know this is their big night out and the kids were in flip flops and three day old t shirts just hours ago. I want to send them to the Vineyard where “casual” is carefully constructed. Undoing its essence. Instead I pull my attention back to Steve, back to our discussion. We are not sure about the Vermont house. We are not sure about his work. We are not sure about our priorities. Not only do I recognize that these are problems of privilege, but I also remind myself how lucky we are that this is such rare confusion. We generally disagree about things so minute as to be funny. Here I am not sure we are disagreeing at all. By then end of dinner we have not resolved anything. Probably because there is nothing to resolve. Yet the energy has left the fight. There is no electric field pushing us apart the way it normally pulls us together. We drive home quietly. Usually we take a meandering route through marshland and oceans. This time we had straight back. Home.

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I can never photograph the magic. But you get the idea.

It isn’t though. All vacation my mother has been telling me it is “my house.” We are sleeping in the master bedroom, we are changing light bulbs and washing windows, we are ordering water filters for the fridge. We are acting like it is home…but it is not. It is a magical lovely family place. It is a place to share. Pushing open the door revealing the huge windows with views of the bay from Plymouth to Provincetown I see my My mother and Robert  rocking next to each other watching the sun begin its nightly bedtime routine. The room is cast in a rosy glow.  They tell us of an afternoon of totems on the beach and report on the unsatisfying amount of protein and vegetables the boys ate. We stand for a few more moments watching the sun slip away. Then it is time for them to go home. I thank them and they make their way slowly to the door. It reminds me a bit of walking down a long hallway towards a stranger. When do you wave or nod? Too soon and you need to duck your head for your final approach steps. It is hard to get the timing right on their departure. I thank and hug them over by the rocking chairs but it is several minutes of moving to the front door. I re-thank at the threshold and again there is a pause, my mother holding the door for Robert then heading down the walkway with his things. The reverse of our arrival.

mom swimming with boys
Unicorn. A picture of me in the water.

Fully packed we take less than the normal amount of sand and head to Boston. I grew up a few miles outside of the city but it never felt like home. I left as soon as I could and have never returned for more than a weekend. I know it is a city many people love. It has sport and architecture and education. It has a park system designed by Olmsted, of Central Park and Shelburne Farms fame. It is smaller than NYC but somehow not more humble. We meet friends for dinner in the South End. Drew is unerring in his pick of great eateries. In Denver he takes us from low to high East to West each meal more exciting than the last. His partner is in Boston for the summer. He is a Boston virgin and is clearly charmed. I know they will move here in a year. Drew grew up a town away from me and it still feels like home to him. In fact the restaurant he picked is “in the neighborhood he would live in.” It has a park with a fountain, and behind the 1800s brick facades I see the glass angle of the Hancock building. I do something I never do and swim in the hotel pool with the boys. I understand the idea of baptism. Moving from one place, one stage to the next.

boy jumping into river
Oliver jumps into the river at Steve’s favorite spot.

The next morning we fly to Indian River. Well, obviously we don’t fly to Indian River because that is impossible. We fly to Travese City and drive 2 hours to Indian River. This is where Steve grew up. He takes us to the green docks on the river where he cooled off in the summer. He showed us state parks and lakes. We slept in his childhood bedroom and Leo sorted through his baseball cards realizing with dismay that the Rockies were not represented (which might be the first time anyone really wanted a Rockies card.) The boys had a great time. It was hard for Steve. He lamented lost trees. His wooded neighborhood had been truly stripped bare. Behind his mother’s large lot there was mini-storage and one of those frighteningly large power poles. Along with these changes came upgrades. There was a rail trail that led 50 miles in either direction. The small park had a fresh playground. The main change though was that his father wasn’t there. He died over 3 years ago but this was only our third trip back. I know he could see him there. Echoes and memories. Also there were tangible signs of his absence. The siding was peeling and the septic needed repair. Steve’s happiest moments in Michigan were when he was sweating in the sun tearing apart the deck to reveal the septic system. It was ready to be repaired now.

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Father and son and sons.

On our last day in Michigan we went to the cemetery to visit Steve’s father’s grave. It is decorated with flowers but not by a headstone. I imagine that permanent marker would make things just that. Permanent. His grave is in a shady spot adjacent to a golf cart path. He was a golfer, and a coach, right up until the end of his life he was the volunteer greens keeper for the course that flanks the cemetery. They have brought him home.

Home. At least one of them.
Home. At least one of them.

Now we are back. I am back in Denver. I already weeded most of the front garden. I walked to the back patio to look at the lemon tree and hibiscus, the tomato and sweet vines, the snap dragons and tall grasses. They were all alive in their pots. My cousin and 4 other families had tended them while we were gone. Now we can take care of them. We are home.

Denver…I hardly know her.

Missing our flight to Austin last weekend seems to have sealed our fate.

Denver it is.

Now we just need to figure out if the house we have under contract is the one.

I’ll set aside that it is band-aid/baby aspirin color and thus reminds me of a decrepit pharmacy. Its location is stellar, mature trees, kid toss distance from the school, architecturally interesting houses, walkable to parks and tea shops, with peek a boo mountain views.

The problem for me is that it is a bit like asking an alcoholic to move into a bar. When we decided to move we pledged to make as small a dent as possible. In our savings, in our footprint, in our life. This house wants everything. From furnace to driveway to kitchen to bathrooms, to new windows. You name it I would change it.

Some of these wants are really needs and so we will address them. But I will be friendless and jobless, in a sunshine filled house screaming out to me to fix it. New closet doors, new drawer pulls, new paint colors…FINE. How about moving stairways and cladding the exterior in zinc. Is that something IKEA can do?

I can’t resist a project. So the perfect location may not be enough for me to move into an ugly duckling.

Who would ever want a kitchen wider than 3 feet?
Who would ever want a kitchen wider than 3 feet?

Fix her, or forget her?

Not the most flexible property manager…

You know that series of posters that the design dudes did about ridiculous client comments?

I want to start collecting them for our Mariners property.

On the bad news/good news/relative bad news/relative good news front we still haven’t sold our property. However we have tenants in through June who are willing to VACATE the premises for the 6 bookings I had between now and the summer. Then they move out for the summer. Also relatively good is the volume of inquiries I have had about renting the house. I go back and forth with about 20 people a day.

Recently I received an inquiry for July (bread and butter lets try to get this beast to carry itself time) He asked for a discount. He said he couldn’t afford the house and he and his wife were public servants. I apologized, told him I needed to keep it at full price for the summer week and wished him luck on the search.

He wrote back that his family was trying to pool money to afford it and did we take dogs? Since NO PETS is clearly on the website I replied that I was sorry but we didn’t allow pets. I told him that I felt like “a bad news machine.” If I were the type to use emoticons I may have. I don’t enjoy shutting people down. This house is not part of my charitable giving though.

He replied today: “well thats exactly right, you are not the most flexible property manager.”

I wonder if home away has secret shoppers or if this guy things he is doing me a favor by bringing his dog to my house and paying me less than my asking price?

The long term tenants have a dog too. Which I found out because I said “you don’t have a dog do you?” He, however, is renting the house in the slower season and is displacing his family 6 times. So I am allowing the dog. I should make him take the peeing cat to balance things out. Show him how great pets can be.

Day 2/100


Good Buy

When we listed our Sarasota house it was marketed as unfurnished. The buyer decided she wanted it furnished. As time went on we realized that “furnished” to us meant “I’m sort of like a stalker buying your life” to her. She wanted EVERYTHING in the house. Including my kids’ legos.

She went through and made her own inventory. Everything, everything was on it. I responded that some of the things were personal items and Steve and I would not sign off on her inventory until we either did a video walk through or made it to the house in person. So we got to the house and I set aside many many fewer things than I wanted because I knew this was a weird sensitive situation.

I sent the amended inventory and this picture back. These are the items I did not want to include in the sale. The house was still fully equipped and decorated. Including many pieces that came from my personal collection.

This was the stuff I wanted. From our house. That I had brought from Vermont. The buyer charged us 2,071 for our own stuff.
This was the stuff I wanted. That I had brought from Vermont. The buyer charged us  for our own stuff.


So this is the response.

Hi Mummy,
As you know ,I am really disappointed about so many things being taken from the house as this was not in the agreement.

The other reason is because I felt that the owners have a great eye for design and as an artist you know how much I appreciate visual beauty and style,especially vintage and the 6o’s style having grown up in Denmark. It was fun being in the house and reminiscing with you about Denmark the day we saw it and decided to make an offer and loving the fact that the yellow dansk enamel ware was so beautifully coordinated with the tulip chairs, candlesticks ,the tulip tweed side chairs and the midcentury cabinets. We both felt that it was such a happy and interesting house and that the furnishings made it great. I remember saying I wonder if the owner is a visual artist of some sort and hoping that if we were going to buy it that they would sell it  with everything in it.

Any way as you now know there has been a lot of confusion about the inventory in the house. Last night I received an email of the objects  that has been removed from the house.
From what I can tell it is just about everything in the photo except for the white lamps with the green and blue shades.
Because you have not been here and Louise was also out of town during the last couple of weeks , I wanted to recap what has happened up until now.

When we wrote up the initial contract we presented it and went back and forth with the sellers until we agreed on a price which included purchasing the house and its, contents and the red volvo. At that time Lisa said that the owners agreed but they wanted some antique glassware from the house and she said she wanted the orange telephone and  we agreed.She was also going to check with the sellers to make sure there was nothing else that was important to them.

So, Louise and I met with Lisa at the house to go over inventory . It was hectic because inspectors were there too but Louise asked Lisa if there was anything else that was of importance to the owners which is when she said the bird sculptures and the Dansk enamel cookware.  We both asked Lisa what the antique glassware was and Lisa said the mason jars and the Turquoise liquid dispensers on the shelves she thought but she would check.
The agents both had to leave so I continued making the inventory list which was a long tedious job but someone needed to do it. When the inspector was done we had to lock up house and leave.So the following week I went back to finish the inventory list because I had been sick that week.

I spent time last night and  today putting together what I think is a fair monetary value on some of the things that the realtor or sellers  took out of the house. I will go down the list . I did a lot of research on line so these are not just random prices.


ice bucket                                                                $25.00
5 blue dot glasses        ($10. each)                       $50.00
1 cocktail shaker                                                     $45.00
1 green striped teapot                                             $45.00
3 yellow ceramic candlesticks   ( $25. each)         $75.00
2 yellow enamel boxes  ($20. each)                       $40.00
1 white rosenthal vase                                              $60.00
1 one white squished can ceramic vase                 $45.00
1 black and white drawing                                         $30.00
1 green enamel bowl with brass spiral legs             $25.00
1 set blue and white cream and sugar china           $45.00
1 green orange juice squeezer                                  $15.00

As far as the Dansk enamel cookware and I know you are also disappointed about those especially because at the time you were not there to even mention anything to Lisa about them but 1 Dansk cooking dish was left.
Sellers took 4 dansk pots and 1 lid  ( used vintage price probably around $300.00)
New they would cost even more but I do not think they make yellow anymore.

It ended up being more sad than funny. So I am skipping that. We left more Dansk than she stated. The sale went through. I decided to take it as a great sign that someone would pay a premium for the place as we set it up. And I can always get a new toothbrush. Not kidding. On the up side here are some of the reasons we can tolerate the concrete jungle that is Florida.

A new friend.
A new friend.
Fighting in the sunset light
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Sarabay sunset
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Sarasota jungle gardens. Oliver’s favorite spot. Please note Leo’s pass include free access for turtle.
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Feeding the flamingo
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All of these house are on the same block near Bay shore drive. Also, check out the soothing tones of the fire hydrant
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Florida bungalow
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Sarasota Modern
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Spanish Tile hidden by jungle style trees
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Why not take a moment to nod to Cape Cod- my least favorite, but I wanted to show the range.
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Midcentury modern
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1920’s bungalow
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Our little pool. The buyer wanted that too. And the goggles.
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The condo we kept is directly on this beach. Anna Maria Island. It makes selling the house a bit easier.
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Oliver is showing me something. But I have eyes only for him. And the water behind him.
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This ball jar came from the house. The buyer charged me $25 for my own ball jar. My incredible realtor paid for this and the five glasses and the ice bucket that we took. It was absurd and sad. I would have pulled the plug on the deal but the realtor took it on the chin, and from her commission. I mean, a BALL JAR. We even left her the legos.
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Bird of paradise at mini golf. Mini golf- paid torture. Does anyone have fun at mini golf?
The red lemon. Buying a convertible for the house was not our best ever idea. But the buyer wanted it.
The red lemon. Buying a convertible for the house was not our best ever idea. But the buyer wanted it. Joke may be on her on this one. Perhaps she can use our tool kit to fix it. She wanted that too.

Good bye Sarasota. I hope the buyer thinks it was a good buy. I know the legos work. Not so sure about the volvo. But it makes a good photo prop.