We’ve paid off 1/30th of our mortgage!
We have been in our house for a year as of today (technically as of about 4:30pm today, but who’s counting). This time last year, we watched Hurricane Earl rolling across the Salem Harbor as we signed our deed. This year, we’re a week out from Hurricane Irene as she limped through here last weekend.
Last year, we sat on the bare floors of our house, eating pizza and sleeping on an air mattress in our bedroom. A year later, our house truly feels like a home… despite still fussing over colors to paint the bedroom.
Last year, we survived what could have been a devastating electrical fire. This year, I love the way the light traces the burnt pumpkin orange walls in the room that was very nearly destroyed.
When I really think about it, it’s crazy to me that we’ve been in our house for a year.
. . .
We lived in student housing together for a little over 3 years. I was a live-in professional, so that meant my neighbors could be anyone from an 18-year old international relations major to a 21-year old graphics design major who had no concept of just how loud their crappy music was. Almost as soon as we moved in to live-in housing, we were already thinking of moving out, thinking about our future one-day home.
Here we are a year later, living in it. And while it’s not the same exact house we pictured (sleek, modern, Zen-like lines), we are perfectly happy with it. We love our house: its old wide-plank wooden floors, its horse hair plaster walls, its clapboard siding and all its non-square, non-level idiosyncrasies.
. . .
There’s a historic marker on our house, stating that ours was the home of Captain Daniel Marshall, by 1846. In the small historical file we have of the home, we know that paperwork for the house appears around 1846, but the previous owners have had other parts of the home examined and estimate the actual date of construction to be around 1791.
Our home could be as young as 165 years or as old as 220 years.
I have been fascinated by Capt. Marshall. We’re lucky to have a copy of the historical file of the home, which includes snippets of information about his life.
From the Salem Evening News, January 6, 1896:
Daniel Marshall, resident at [redacted], is the oldest ship master in Salem, He was born in Scarboro, Maine on Jan. 9, 1809, and consequently will observe tomorrow the 89th anniversary of his birth.
At the age of 17 he came to Salem and obtained employment on Derby Wharf, where he remained a short time, and then shipped on the “Perseverance,” bound for Madagascar with a cargo of salt. When near Majunga the vessel grounded and proved a total loss.
Mr. Marshall remained in Majunga until another of Mr. Brookhouse’s vessels, the “Fawn,” arrived there and then he joined her. He sailed in and commanded many other vessels, until about 17 years ago, when he retired from the sea.
In May 1837 he married Miss Charlotte Phippen of Salem, and lived happily with her until her death. He had four children living, Daniel A. of Bay City, Mich. and Albert A. and George H. and Mrs. George H. Glover of Salem. He resides with the latter at [redacted]. He also has one grandson, Charles W. Marshall of Bay City.
Capt. Marshall seldom visits the centre of the city although he goes about in the immediate neighborhood of his residence; ever pleased to meet old friends, he also willingly converses with even strangers on the exciting scenes of his youth. During the past year he enjoyed comparatively good health and bids fair to reach the century mark.
I have often wondered what Madagascar must have looked like in the mid-19th century, this wild island paradise home to the world’s largest population of lemurs. I have wondered if Capt. Marshall walked along those docks half a world away, feeding bits of hardtack from his coat pocket to those curious bright-eyed, striped-tail primates, the scenery lush, verdant, and alive.
I have wondered how our street might have looked all those years ago. And I have often wondered what his face must have looked like, how he showed affection to his wife, how he tucked his children into bed at night.
Capt. Marshall died in the house in 1901, at the age of 92.
Sometimes, when the french doors are found inexplicably open in the morning, when we hear boot steps in my upstairs office, when you feel the breeze of someone having walked past you when you’re washing the dishes, home alone – sometimes we are reminded that this has always been Capt. Marshall’s home and always will be.
We are merely temporary tenants.
. . .
I remember this time last year feeling so topsy-turvy: we moved out of student housing, we were living temporarily with friends until we closed on our house due to some annoyingly long delays and genuine fuckups by our mortgage agent, we moved in during a hurricane and the year was off, galloping ahead as I barely held onto the reigns.
I’m feeling that same sense of unsettled-ness again this year; perhaps its the consequence of working in higher education this time of year. There’s a definite charged electricity, of gears speeding up as the Academic Machine roars to life once again. Having missed 9 days of work (as this time of year, we’re working on the weekends too), I find myself trying to play catch up again, trying to feel grounded as another academic year feels like it’s whirring to life without me, or with me barely able to keep up.
This was me a year ago:
I am a very different woman now, just a year later. Besides the chopped-off hair, I’m now a homeowner. I pay property taxes and mortgage payments and water bills and go shopping for a new water heater when we were supposed to go fishing because ours busted and nearly flooded the basement.
I guess… I’m actually a card-carrying grown-up now.
For all the things I complain about: my job, my lack of children, and even some of the dumb things that come with home ownership (like taking out the trash – I hate taking out the trash): I’m so grateful to have a house and to be a homeowner.
Larry and I still – even a year later – will walk around the house and say, “I can’t believe this is ours.”
We are truly grateful and totally recognize that we are incredibly lucky and blessed to be able to afford this home. That said, we are also painfully aware that there are those who aren’t as lucky to have their own place to call home. A walk through Boston Common is a stark reminder of the huge homeless population that exists in Massachusetts. Flipping on the news and seeing whole towns in Vermont cut off by flood waters from Irene is another reminder.
Even as we watched firefighters begin axing into our own living room walls a year ago: a home is something we expect to be long lasting, but can be just as temporary in an instant.
So I’ve decided that, like many things in Judaism, I want to mark this very special milestone of our home ownership anniversary with a ritual act of tzedaka (charity). From now on, every September 3rd, we’ll be making a small donation to a charity or organization that’s focused on providing shelter to those who need it, such as the Somerville Homeless Coalition in the city where I work, or Lifebridge, an organization working to end homelessness in our own community of Salem.
Since we signed the deed to our house as a hurricane rolled in last year, it seems fitting to contribute to a neighboring community impacted by Hurricane Irene. This year, I’m making a donation to the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund. Established by both the Vermont Community Foundation and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, this fund will benefit the farming communities most affected in the wake of Irene. For many of these folks, it wasn’t just their homes that were lost, but very nearly their livelihoods as well.
There are still many other sectors of Vermont community life that need help too, such as the greater small business security. There’s been no official word that these businesses will be able to receive assistance or funds from FEMA, so they desperately need our help too. VTDigger.org has compiled a pretty comprehensive list of ways you can help volunteer, as well as funds and organizations that are collecting donations.
To help us celebrate a year in our home, consider making a contribution to the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund today or a charity of your choice that benefits those who need shelter the most in your communities.
. . .
When we got married, Larry and I stood under a chuppah, basically an open-sided tent. It is symbolic of the home we were to create, a sacred space for the bride and bridegroom. Our rabbi noted that it was important that this “home” had no walls, that our union is bound in the eyes of the community.
Now, at this milestone, I’m reminded again of those words from our rabbi.
As nice as it is to enjoy the comforts of our home, it’s important that we remember our home is not one in isolation: we belong to a community. So it’s only right we give back when we can.