“Home is where the heart is”
Pliny the Elder
I wasn’t born there and I left it twice for extended periods but New England was home to me for four decades. Though I gravitate toward warm, sunny places, I’ve loved it in non-summer for the skiing and snowshoeing and mountain hikes. I’ve had great friends, colleagues and writing group supporters there. I’ve even loved the often freezing cold (but exhilarating) Feaster Five on Thanksgiving morning. However, it was time to hit the life reset button.
After four decades of snow blowing and shoveling heavy snows and raking umpteen piles of beautiful autumn leaves in Massachusetts, my husband and I decided to follow the sun. We are not becoming snowbirds (technically “winter visitors). We plan to spend eight months in the warmth of the south and four months back north avoiding hurricane season in the lakes and mountains of Maine.
The process of relocation hasn’t been easy
First, we had to pare down our possessions and ready one house for sale. That took about a year. We put excess things in storage, donated items through once-a-month pickups, sold things online and had yard sales.
The house was repaired and repainted, inside and out with sweat equity. The hardest part was removing the things we loved that evoked sweet memories. A clean slate was staged so buyers could visualize making it their own but it emphasized that it had ceased feeling like “home” to us even while we still owned it. That done, we endured several months of keeping things “perfect” for open houses and buyer visits until it was sold.
In the meantime, we found a place we loved down south. It wasn’t a rash decision. We had been scouting the area for several years and knew what we wanted. We made an offer, negotiated and signed the contract. Then we found out that we had to be approved by the Homeowners’ Association. We were a little nonplussed and wondered if any biases were being subtly employed. We’ve since learned the community is multi-age, multi ethnic, kid and dog friendly and has residents of varying sexual persuasion. So, what was the deal? I think it was a check to make sure you could pay your HOA dues—a somewhat invasive way to ensure the community doesn’t go belly up.
Preliminaries over, we began the relocation process. The beginning involved a lot of moving boxes, bubble wrap and packing tape. Then we hired PODS to move our furniture and boxes, which we loaded ourselves with the help of friends.
We notified the Post Office of our change of address and canceled newspaper delivery, electricity, landline telephone, internet and cable up north and set up those services at our new place.
Address changes had to be submitted for credit cards, investments, AAA, cell company, New England doctors, AARP, pensions, health insurance, social security, EZ Pass, and services we would still need for our ski house (now winterized summer place) up north.
We had to apply for new drivers’ licenses, change our car registration and auto insurance to our new state, register to vote and find local doctors and contractors.
When the PODS with our stuff arrived and we had to unload them, a couple of our new neighbors gave us a hand and we also found some day laborers at a local resource center. The job of unpacking, hanging artwork, placing furniture and finding storage spots for things took weeks. One of the highlights has been finding a home for about fifty moving boxes, four large boxes of bubble wrap and a pile of moving blankets. Once all that was taken away, the garage space opened up. Inside the living areas, we’ve had to decide what pieces work, what needed to be replaced with more appropriate new items and what we needed to let go of completely. It’s an ongoing process.
Moving from a single-family home to a townhouse with a homeowner’s association has brought its own learning curve. We’ve had to figure out how to dispose of packing paper and cardboard according to the community garbage and recycling rules. (We used to burn paper in a woodstove.) We had to figure out how to enter the gym when it’s locked. (Use the pool pass.) We were given remotes for the front gate but wondered how to let in guests without trekking over there. A trip to the property management office set up our gate access codes for guests and we can now click them in using our cell phones. We had hoped to do without a landline phone to avoid robocalls but learned that we need one for the security system the association provides. (We’re still waiting to learn how to use the latter because we don’t have the code yet.) And a new climate brings new challenges. One neighbor showed us how to set up the garage door for hurricane stability. Another showed us how to open our hurricane impact windows so we can clean them.
We are at the two-month mark in our new home and, though our first weeks here were hectic, we were spared missing beach walks because the red tide had descended. The easing of move-in tasks has thankfully coincided with a healthy ocean shore. I am now embracing flip-flops and sandy feet in winter, loving my morning pool workouts that ease my arthritic knees and reaching out to establish new writing contacts. It hasn’t been easy but has it been worth it? Absolutely!