Real estate


Our house was a Vineyard haven we could afford

Kate T. Williamson for The Boston Globe

All I saw were trees. Thousands of them.

And my in-law’s house.

Luckily, my husband, an engineer, surveyor, and islander, had a different vision.


These oaks, Reid said, represent the solution to our big question: finding affordable housing on Martha’s Vineyard.

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When we proposed subdividing his parents’ property to create a house site, they beamed, even nodded at my stipulations. “Rule 1. Always call before coming over . . . ”

Still, I wondered what life in the woods would be like without neighbors or a coffee shop within walking distance. Reid assured me: “You’re going to love it, Babe. If not, we sell.”

I put my trust in him.

By the time we had a building permit in hand, my neck ached from constantly gazing at my precious potbelly. After enduring two life-shattering miscarriages, I couldn’t have been bothered debating window options. This eliminated millions of potential conflicts between us.


When a conservation group raised a red flag, suggesting a rare orchid could be on our property, we lost sleep and three months’ time on a pricey study. We proceeded once it was determined that this flower, one that had never been seen before on the island, was not on our lot.

Soon, friends arrived with backhoes and bricks. A lot was cleared, a foundation poured, and a frame raised. On a viciously cold winter’s day, our growing house was warm for the first time when Reid and his grade-school buddies, who doubled as our chimney masons, built a fire. Three old friends toasted with Sam Adams to their success and our future.

Months passed. Girlfriends sidestepped nails, helping select a peaceful paint palette featuring “Grandeur Pond” and “Turquoise Mist.”

Once Reid’s cousin finished putting up the Sheetrock, I could feel how close we were. Still, I wondered whether our baby would beat the house.

One fall day, as I waddled in with my basketball belly, I could hardly find Reid, who was on double overtime sanding bedroom floors. He smelled the lunch delivery, and we slipped out back, picnicking on the railing-less deck, which overlooked the grass-less yard. For a few minutes we soaked in the thrilling possibilities within reach.


One stormy Saturday evening, even though I was in early labor, we were still on the job. We checked on his mother, who was contentedly varnishing trim. The next afternoon, our perfect eight-pound brunette miracle, Baby Owen, arrived.

More months passed, and I was a mix of emotions — thrilled and exhausted by the vortex of motherhood. Reid continued working double overtime on the house, installing electrical fixtures while Baby O and I took the ferry to the mainland to pick up appliances and furniture.

It wasn’t until the sturdy fir front door was hung that I could smell the Sunday morning pancakes that would fry in our kitchen. Despite the warnings (“don’t move in until it’s finished”), that spring we arrived with whatever I could stuff into our pickup.

It became a home that first night, when sharing takeout from Scottish Bakehouse with friends. Four glasses clinked in celebration, and three jackets hung in the mudroom overnight.

Waking that morning, it felt as if I were in a treehouse surrounded by budding oaks, gentle streams, and melodic chickadee songs. Days later, a ceiling sprung a leak, a sparrow arrived in Owen’s bedroom, and a frog made for a lively chase in the living room.

I admit I’m impressed at how much life there is down a quiet dirt road in the woods.

Moira Convey Silva is a writer and writing instructor who is happiest when eating pancakes with her family on the deck. Send comments to and a 550-word essay on your first home to Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.