Home is Where the Heart Is

25 Feb

…right? It’s true to a great extent, but do our actual houses, the buildings we live in, mean nothing? My parents are planning to sell our house sometime in the not-too-distant future, and the idea is seriously depressing to me.

It’s interesting to note that many languages do not distinguish between the concepts of “house” and “home” – the French use one word, “maison,” like the Spanish use “casa.” Although the trite expression in the title suggests otherwise, the two concepts are inextricably connected.

Many people are fortunate enough to live in the same house from early childhood until the time when they find their own place, and as a child I assumed that my life would be no different. When my father was laid off from his job sometime in 1997, I was faced with the unthinkable prospect of moving. Not just moving to a different house in the same town…that would have been bearable – but moving to a different state entirely.

I was too young to fully understand the financial motivations for moving, but I still suspect that my parents lied to me when they told me that my father couldn’t find a good job in the area. It was always his dream to move up to New Hampshire, and that’s what we did, in the summer of 1998, at the expense of my childhood friendships. It was an utterly devastating change, particularly for a 10-year-old boy, and in retrospect I feel cheated by my parents’ personal interests, but it’s hard to believe that they didn’t consider my feelings at all. It’s just a subject that we never really talked about again.

Whenever I visit my grandparents back in Mansfield, whose house is next to our old one, I look at our house and am overwhelmed with memories. So many wonderful moments attached to that wooden building. I sometimes want to go inside, but it would probably seem strange and unfamiliar without our things. I also wonder how my life might be different if I never moved from it. But that sort of wondering is pointless.

Things happen. I’m sure I wouldn’t have retained all of my childhood friendships even if I had stayed in Mansfield. And I’m fortunate to have been able to grow up there…it was a wonderful town to spend my childhood in, and those memories will never go away. Moving to Bristol wasn’t as dramatic a move as it could have been – at least we were still in New England. While there were some cultural adjustments, they would have been much greater had we moved to another part of the country. It was more a change of scenery … just from a larger New England town to a smaller one.

In many ways, my parents moving out of our current house wouldn’t require nearly as much of an adjustment for me…I have less emotional attachment to it than I had to our old house, and it wouldn’t mean a major life change for me, since they’ll probably wait until I’m done with college, and hopefully until I have my own place.

Still, selling our house would deeply bother me. Perhaps largely because we built it ourselves (like our first house, although I was too young to remember the construction). We barely finished building it – the stairs weren’t finished until last year. To think of already selling it seems so…wasteful. I thought that all the work we put into it would give us a house to last a lifetime, a place that I could always come back to. It’s a beautiful house, in such a beautiful place … unfortunately, that’s part of the problem.

Because of our location (with the view) and our access to beach rights on the lake, the property taxes on our house have doubled in the past year. Along with putting two children through college, this is a major financial strain on my parents. I can certainly understand their motivations. The house would sell much higher than what it cost to buy and build on the lot (a complete steal compared to today’s market), allowing them to live with less financial worry and more pocket change in a smaller house. Besides, they would like to move to Meredith, which they feel is more “civilised.” Pssh.

It would be selfish of me to argue more with my parents about moving, but the sentimental value of the house and the desire to (hopefully) bring my own children there someday are very strong. I’m willing to do whatever I can to help my parents keep the house, but unfortunately the move seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. And right now, I’m a financial burden, so I’m not helping the situation at all.

So, what can I do? I suppose I shouldn’t get my hopes up, at any rate. By the time I’m able to support my parents financially, it may be too late. The taxes keep rising. I suppose the best thing anyone can do is fight increases in property taxes, both state-wide and local (if we had built our house a few hundred metres north, in Bridgewater, we might have avoided this situation altogether). New Hampshire might have one of the lowest tax burdens in the country, but our property tax system is just ridiculous. Of course, the state of the housing market doesn’t help, either.

Something’s gotta give.

Even if our house is sold, life will go on. The memories will be forever, I suppose. And I’ve got pictures worth a thousand words.

But I’ll certainly miss my big blue room.

In other news…

The international students’ trip to Oxford yesterday was very nice. The “city of dreaming spires” is beautiful, and the depth of tradition imbued in the university is very impressive. Not to mention the student residences…I almost considered applying for a moment or two. Of course, I also took pictures.

I recently stumbled upon a great blog by a member of the Canadian Cartographic Association, which led me to this site, which endeavours to supply a photograph representative of every square kilometre of the British Isles. So far roughly half of the land mass is covered, but it’s a very cool project.

I also came across a neat site called Storybook England, which plots the settings of various well-known English childrens’ books (I’m tempted to visit the real Watership Down, but that might just be too dorky of me).

Unfortunately, the Canadian Cartographic Association stopped posting updates to their blog a couple months ago, but if you’re interested in geography or maps at all, there’s a lot of great resources on it. One of the linked blogs is Google Maps Mania, which is particularly fun to peruse (at least if you waste hours looking at Google Maps or Google Earth like I do). There’s a link to a site called the Jack Bauer Tracker, which shows Jack’s movements and how impossible it really is to get from place to place in LA like he does, but I think it only covers season 5.

I’m going to fool around with some of the Google Map builders and see if I come up with anything interesting to show in a bit. Looking at all of these maps has certainly ignited my geographic side, and I’m fairly certain that my next blog post will be an examination of American cultural geography…something which is perhaps a bit easier to do from this side of the Atlantic. In fact, we may be looking at a two-parter.

As a prelude to my big mapfest, here’s a geographic rendition of my Spring Break travel plans:

Purple: Week 1

Yellow: Week 2

Blue: Week 3

Red: Week 4

Unfortunately I’m still having problems paying for my Megabus tickets to and from Wales, so I still need to get that sorted out, then buy my rail passes for Wales and the Continent.

J’ai hâte de parler français encore.

Speaking of French, if you’re in the mood for deciphering some strong Canadian accents, someone recently updated a clip from a René Simard documentary on youtube, about his younger days singing in Japan and the U.S. I found it interesting, although it is strange to suddenly find myself a fan of a singer who was popular a couple decades ago, especially one who was singing as a kid and who is now over 40 years old. But I’m glad that I’ve discovered these French language singers, because most Anglophones will go their whole life without knowing of them.

Well, the Oscars are on tonight, but I’m not sure if they’re aired here. Even if they are, I don’t have a TV, and I’d have to stay up quite late to watch them. 🙂 Fortunately I can stay up as late as I am – my Monday morning class moved to Friday evenings. A mixed blessing.

I’d better be able to find the show online tomorrow.

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One Response to “Home is Where the Heart Is”

  1. Megan 1 March 2007 at 14:37 #

    Greg! There. I promised I’d read and comment.

    Your spring break plans sound awesome, btw… I’m beginning to fear that I’m trying to squeeze in too much in too little time, but then again I think it’s all about the journey… I’m sure I’ll learn a lot about myself (even if it’s a pricy investment).

    Forgot to ask you today if you know about dymaxion maps, but you probably do. I discovered them last night and thought they were pretty fascinating.

    Also, I’ve moved 3 times in my life already… so I can’t really relate… But I would be sad if my parents sold our current house. We’ve lived there for more than 10 years now!

    Right. See you Saturday!

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