my first home

Dream home had us headed for the highway

(Lauren Simkin Berke for the boston globe)

I met Jack on the golf course in 1947. We courted and, three years later, he proposed to me in a butler’s pantry (after having spoken with my parents). He wanted us to marry at the end of my junior year in college. It was a storybook romance. Reality set in, however, and the romantics had to find a place to live. I thought we could get a pied-a-terre near campus. He had in mind a small house to rent or buy.

We looked for a few discouraging weeks until his parents offered us the two lots they had purchased about 25 years before in Belmont; they built across a highway in Arlington.

The next week Jack had lunch with Tom, a law school colleague, and mentioned our engagement and plans. After lunch, Tom suggested they go see a house his boss was building. It was a five-room ranch in the construction stage. Jack found it quite appealing, so much so that he arranged to have me meet Harry, the builder, that Saturday. I loved the house; it featured a step-down living room. I asked Harry for the plans, promising to photocopy and return them promptly. The guidance I received at Town Hall was unbelievably caring and informative for this 20-year-old bride-to-be. They suggested I get a scale ruler and then taught me how to use it. We were married in June 1951, and Town Hall mentored every move we made on the house.When we ran into a really expensive bit of trouble getting in water, they advised using a backhoe instead of dynamite. The rock turned out to be shale — problem solved. This big bump delayed our move-in date, but there was another bump: I was pregnant and hospitalized with complications. The following spring, in 1952, we moved into the dream home Harry built, and we had a “dividend,” our baby girl Karen.

Our house was next to the highway, and our president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, announced a big infrastructure project with our home right in the middle. Lots of talk, lots of plans, but then Sputnik went up in 1957, and those infrastructure plans were shelved — for seven years. Our home was eventually taken by eminent domain and demolished.


We built our second home on the side of Belmont Hill, overlooking the Boston area from the Blue Hills to the Chelsea oil tanks. In 1980, we moved into our next home, on Cape Cod. The children had all left the nest, returning to play on summer weekends.


In 2002, two days before Christmas, Jack died in an automobile accident. I was alone. We had been an extraordinary team. I now had to make decisions based on our past experiences. I returned to work as a patient advocate and managed well in my home for about seven years. But then, although some of the original 3 acres had been sold, the landscaping and pool became too much work.

I found a new community about a mile away as the crow flies: Cotuit Meadows. At 80. I designed and built another little house for me and my two cats.

The next move, if necessary, will be at my family’s convenience. Cape Cod is a bridge too far.

Marjorie Maling Harvey, a
retired patient advocate and great-grandmother of seven, lives in Cotuit. Send comments and a 550-word
essay on your first home to Address@globe.com. Please note:
We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.