HOMES – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Sunday–Home


Be it ever so humble, home is going to really cost you.

Growing up

I never really felt at home at my parent’s house. All I wanted was to be old enough to run. My first marriage was the classic “jailbreak.” He was still living in his parents’ attic. I had a rented room near the college. We both needed to get out of where we were and into something with “legs.”

The was our first house. It cost us $20,300 which is less than the car we drive. We took out an $18,000 mortgage. We lived there for 8 years, but it needed a lot of work. For one thing, its heating system was a converted coal furnace … and a second bathroom had become an issue. We could have remodeled rather than moving, but houses were still inexpensive, so we moved.

Exactly one mile away.

The next house

I loved that house. I used to walk around it during the night and just touch things. It talked to me. Unfortunately, that marriage was on its way out. Five-years later, I was on my way to Jerusalem, Israel.

The home in Baka, Jerusalem

That marriage was troubled before we got married. Had I had any sense at all, I never would have gotten into it … but I was lonely, far from home.  I didn’t speak or read the language.

The marriage had endless problems, but I adored Jerusalem and that old Arab-built house in which we finally settled had magic. It was home … until I left. The troubled marriage only got worse and after 9 years, I went home.

I had no place to stay, so I stayed in the guest room of the first husband.

Roxbury. Great townhouse. Three flights of stairs.

Garry thought we should get married and not long after that, we did. We found a great home in Roxbury. A triplex with enough closets to last a lifetime … and a wonderful kitchen. It was not finished when we bought it, so we had it designed for us. It was a great townhouse. We wanted a yard for the dogs … but if the Big Dig hadn’t driven us away, we might still be there. Really, probably not. We wanted some land. We wanted to live in the country.

Now, and for the past 18 years, this has been our home. It is also undoubtedly our last home.

What made each place a real home and not just a place to sleep?

Fundamentally, it’s where our dogs, cats, books, and art lives. I have lived in homes with many different people — including alone. The art and the dogs and cats always came too. They are a lot of what makes me feel I’m me.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Art, especially, is important. I don’t know how anyone can live in a house with blank walls and empty tables. The “glass and steel” trends of recent years look pretty in a photograph, but how awful to live in a place that’s all sharp edges.

Every place I’ve lived has had art and books everywhere. Dogs and cats and occasionally other critters, too.  Living with Garry has been a pleasure. After a lifetime of living with — or being married to — people I often didn’t really like, it’s great to live with someone I love.

Home is the stage from which we emerge into the larger world. We keep our costumes here. We keep our computers here. It’s the number we give to people who might want to call us — and one of the reasons I much prefer having a “home” telephone number.

This is where I live. Call me. If I don’t answer, leave a message and I’ll get back to you. This is where we live. This is home.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

36 thoughts on “HOMES – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. It’s funny how the country becomes more appealing as you get older. I probably could not have lived here in my twenties but now I love it. I don’t really miss city attractions that much. They are nice to have once in a while but I don’t need them every day.

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    1. We talk about it now and again. One of the real benefits of country living is you don’t feel that compelling need to run somewhere else whenever you have time off. The country is much easier on the nervous system.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, when we lived in the suburbs we always struggled to find time to go for a drive in the country. In the country we could enjoy great scenery even when going to the supermarket. Hobart is less than an hour away by car so it is the best of both words I think, or would be if I could drive 🙂 but there is the bus and when I don’t miss “the big shops” because there is not much in them that I want any more.

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  2. I love your first (brick) house and your last house the best. I’ve never thought of compiling a photo of places I’ve lived. I don’t even have photos of most of them, strangely enough, but when I get home perhaps I’ll try.
    Enjoyed seeing yours and so glad your last is the best in terms of both husbands and houses.

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    1. I used Google for some of them … the one in Roxbury is EXACTLY as we left it, including the steel door we added. I can show you where the truck backed into Garry’s Mustang and then denied it, but a neighbor had seen it and written down the license number. The one in Israel was also from Google. The house I grew up in is long gone. Knocked down and at least 4 houses are on that plot of land now.

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    1. Each was beautiful, in its own way. From an interior point of view, the townhouse in Boston was the best-designed house … but it was also a triplex with a LOT of stairs that coiled up to the third (bedroom) floor. I don’t think the stairs were wide enough for a lift chair. AND it had electric heat, which meant that sometimes our electric bill was higher than our mortgage. So maybe just as well.

      At the time, it was mainly because we had two dogs and a cat … and had to hire someone to come and walk them while we worked … and then there was The Big Dig and Boston was a total disaster for more than a decade.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are right, each home we live in through our lives has a beauty of its own. Apart from the way it’s built and the interior, there are the memories associated with it. In retrospect, we have usually good memories of our old homes.

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    1. I’m trying to imagine how we would survive in that triplex now. Even by the time we left, when we went all the way up to bed (what a GREAT bedroom that was, with working skylights and a full bathroom and walk-in closet), we had to carry everything we might need with us because the three flights were becoming difficult even then. I had an image of a bad knee or hip (had no idea my back was going to fall apart, or my heart, for that matter). One of the smart things I did was use the very small room on the second floor for the laundry, so washing was done in the middle and you only had to go up or down ONE flight. I’m pretty sure I’d never get there now.

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      1. We only bought our own later in age. The kids were finished with school and we only had one at home, although the other one was not very much at home, so we decided on our own apartment, although I wanted a ground floor apartment with the chance of a garden, which we found. I realise the advantage now, as everything is on the same floor and we really have enough room.

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    1. After I got back from Israel, I moved 6 times in three years. When we moved in here, I said “That’s it. I’m going to die here.” I didn’t mean it literally, but then again …

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  3. A house absorbs the feelings and love and becomes a home. I inherited my house from my uncle,who had it built 80 years ago.It was a welcoming home when we moved in , and has become more so as time goes on. Your house is charming on the outside,and I’m sure more so on the inside. Aren’t we lucky to have happy houses?

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    1. That little brick house had a great feel to it, but it really needed some significant work. The guy who bought it did everything, including replacing the old single-pane windows, installing a new furnace and entirely new (efficient!) radiators. He also opened up the back of the attic and added two more bedrooms upstairs. These were all things we wanted to do, but the price was like buying another house. But then again, the house we bought was ALSO an old one that needed work. A lot of work. It is still being worked on. It was beautiful,. Hardly any land. There had been acreage, but it had been sold off, so the house took up almost the entire property. Just a side yard — no backyard. And now the area is much more expensive which, on Long Island, means insanely high taxes.

      That was when I decided that a passion for old houses is inevitably a money pit. We bought this house and it wasn’t really old, but in the last 18 years, it kind of became old. And all the work we did on it needs doing again.

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      1. The joys of owning a home. Still, there’s a special feeling, knowing it’s yours. I’ve never owned a home, my ex was too scared so I’ve always rented. Some beautiful homes, massive 5,000 square feet and what I learned about that was, it’s the same as a wee place, one thing is out of place and the entire room looks messy. My home now is 900 square feet with 2 bedrooms, a galley kitchen and front room and tiny dining area. I pretty much eat at my desk as the dog takes up all the available room lol. This place doesn’t feel like home for some reason.

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          1. There’s something about owning your own home that makes it more special, more home less transient on some level. I feel like I’m a drifter, always, unsettled, wafting on the wind sort of if that makes sense, rootless in many ways, but rooted by family.

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  4. Oh Marilyn, what a great post. I am so attached to my house. It has been my home for 43 years and the thought of living anywhere else (at east full time) gives me nightmares.
    Partly because it has taken me so much time, energy, fighting, creativity and money to keep this old place. But mostly, I just love it, especially these days. It’s like my last act of complete rebellion to be the only “old” house left in the surrounding area, all the other oldies, torn down and replaced with McMansions.

    I hope I get to walk your halls, meet your dogs and see your forest someday!

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    1. I hope you do find someplace that feels “right.” I often think houses have their own individual ambiance. This house wasn’t as welcoming as the old brick one or the one after it, but once we got settled in it, it was friendly and extremely comfortable. And eventually, HOME.

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  5. Enjoyed your trip down memory lane through the ‘eyes’ of the houses, Marilyn. We’ve had six of our own (not counting apartment living when we were away) over our 50+ years together. .. Home is not in the building, it is where the hearts and the art live! ❤

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  6. Your description of your current house definitely makes it a ‘home.’ We did get rid of our landline right before the last big election. I couldn’t take the constant political phone calls, and everyone who counted had our cell phone numbers. It took a lot of working up to cancelling it, but once we did it we couldn’t figure out why we hadn’t done it before. Enjoy your beautiful blue house in the woods. :-0

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  7. Having a house/home is great but it’s a money pit. There’s always something to command your immediate attention that needs fixing right now. What interesting is that we seldom, for whatever reasons, get to the task when we should, but will come up with bandaid fixes until it’s pretty clear that there are no more of those, and you need to go into hock or risk further habitat humiliation. I try to avoid thinking of the houses I’ve had, especially the ones I really wanted to keep, or risk suffering an attack of “woulda, coulda, shoulda.” That goes for relationships as well.

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    1. Yeah, but I think houses cost more. And you NEVER finish. There’s always one more thing … and if you live there long enough? The things you already did get old and you have to do them AGAIN. I think it’s unfair. If I’ve put on a roof, I should not have to EVER put up another one. There oughtta be a law.

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      1. It’s the old saying that “Nothing lasts forever.” This from a guy who loves old things, especially the ones that still work, and the companies that are out of business because they built the things that lasted forever so nobody needed a new one. Not a good business model wouldn’t cha say? So welcome to planned obsolescence, the new old.

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