Real estate

My First Home

From cold feet to digging in my heels

Chris Gash for The Boston Globe

Although I’m an avid swimmer, I’m always slow to dip my toes in the water. So perhaps it’s no surprise that years ago on a Monday morning, I was filled with a pounding sense of dread. Near the end of a phone chat with my friend Darlene, I casually mentioned, “Oh, and we bought a house.”

“You WHAT?” she sputtered.

My husband, Jim, and I had been house hunting for months. We were in no hurry to leave our roomy Watertown apartment — the second and third floors of a nicely located three-decker — but our landlord had substantially raised the rent. The owner of a real estate firm, he was kicking us chicks out of his nest. “It’s time you two became homeowners,” he advised.


A few years earlier, Jim and I had moved from Maryland to Massachusetts for two reasons: I was getting a master’s degree at Boston University, and we both adored snow. (It’s true.) Now we needed to decide whether to put down roots in New England or, in the face of sky-high real estate prices, flee to a more affordable snowy spot.

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To find something in our price range, we searched high and low west of Boston and in southern New Hampshire, tramping through an endless number of nondescript starter homes. Finally, we found a charming Cape in Townsend, complete with a half-acre lot and a front-to-back kitchen with exposed beams, a fireplace, and a beehive oven. After several visits, we made an offer. As soon as it was accepted, however, I felt as though I were trapped in quicksand — stuck in a pricey and terrifyingly adult contract.

I’d spent much of my childhood moving from house to house and state to state. I could tell that my parents, who had bought and built plenty of homes, thought we were foolish to pay so much for so little. Had I been allowed to embrace my fears, I would have promptly withdrawn our offer, but Jim and Susan (our real estate agent and now longtime friend) rightfully ignored me, since we had found exactly what we’d been looking for.

Eventually I calmed down. We moved in, ripped down wallpaper, put in new carpet, planted strawberries, set up a hammock. We delighted in every foot of snow that blanketed our property, and I became editor of the weekly newspaper. We made wonderful friends, many of whom we are still close to today.

Several years later, when we decided to move into something bigger, we undertook another exhaustive search, and, predictably, I called the whole thing off. But finally, we found House No. 2, and on a July night, it was suddenly time to walk out the door of our first home one last time.


I was six months’ pregnant and excited about our move. As I gripped that doorknob, however, thunder exploded overhead and the skies let loose. As if on cue, I began to sob uncontrollably, paralyzed by emotions I hadn’t expected. Once again, my feet felt ensnared in quicksand — now because I realized that as soon as this door closed, we would be leaving part of our life behind.

Little did I know that, in a strange twist of fate, we’d soon be back, right through that door several times a week. In October, our son was born. Five and a half years later, identical twin girls came along. Our three children ended up going to home day care in our old Townsend Cape, cared for by the new owner, a woman I nicknamed “Saint Mary.”

Turns out, you can go home again.

Alice Cary, a freelance writer, lives in Groton. Send comments and your 550-word essay to Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.