The Dutch Colonial on Sachem Street in Quincy wasn’t our first home, but we desperately wanted it to be. It was the first house we ever fell in love with, the first we put an offer on — and the first to utterly break our hearts.
My wife and I went to an open house there just a couple of months after we got married. We’d been poking around the market for a while without finding much to like in our paltry price range. But this little yellow house, a block from the ocean? We knew it was the one.
It was an estate sale, run down, and in need of lots of work — maybe more than we could have handled, in retrospect. There was a gaping hole in the shower wall, which was tiled in a bright cobalt blue. The kitchen had an adorable banquet table but was pretty outdated, even by our forgiving standards.
But you could tell there had been a lot of love within its walls. Despite being deserted, it evoked my aunt’s airy New Hampshire lake house, which was always full of life and love and laughter. It had all the hallmarks I’ve come to love about 1920s houses: crown molding, a flowing floor plan, fireplace, built-in hutch. And I can’t explain why, maybe it was the sun pouring in, but even the stained, peeling wallpaper somehow managed to seem cheerful.
Still, as a first-time home buyer, making an official offer on a house — with all the money you’ve ever saved and may ever possess in your lifetime — is a terrifying prospect. To get your nerve up, you really have to fall in love with a house and imagine living your life there.
This was the first house where I could see our entire futures unfold in my mind.
The sun-soaked window seat where my wife would curl up with a crossword and a cup of coffee on weekend mornings. The fenced-in yard, perfect for a dog we didn’t even have yet.
The gentle, bow-limbed tree out back where I’d make a tire swing — for kids I only just then realized I absolutely wanted. The circular floor plan that would have those same kids forever racing around, filling the home with joyful shrieks.
I could see it all happening, and I fell in love — hard — with the house, and with the life I knew we would live there.
We weren’t prepared to fall in love so fast. We frantically gathered tax returns and pay stubs for a rushed preapproval, hustling to get in an offer. After that, it quickly started becoming real. We began planning our modest updates and plotting furniture placements on a graph-paper sketch of the floor plan.
Then, after an anxious, lovestruck couple of days — we got outbid. And like that (poof!) our first home just vanished. I was crestfallen.
Whenever I hear of friends embarking on their own first-time home search, I tell them: “Be prepared to fall in love and to have your heart broken. Maybe multiple times!”
I love the hulking two-family we bought instead (after another full year of searching) and the life we’ve built here. To be honest, it was probably the very best outcome given our situation.
But I still get a bit wistful when I walk by that Dutch Colonial today. In fact, it’s surprising just how often I think about the house on Sachem Street, even now — because it gave me the courage to become a homeowner and to start a family.