One year ago, I packed up my car in Philadelphia where I was indulging in academia and hemorrhaging Monopoly money and headed north to my hometown of Grafton to attend a property tax auction. City living had made me more homesick than usual. Studying old buildings left me pining for a place of my own.
I mapped out every scenario for the house I wanted to buy. I lined up friends to attend the auction just to scare off other bidders. I wore my flannel to blend in. I shuffled around my Monopoly money just in case. I practiced my “auction voice” in the mirror.
The preparation paid off. In the span of just minutes, the house was mine for roughly the cost of a one-credit graduate school course.
Until last week, I often regretted this impulsive house-buying decision. The house is an endless supply of frustration; hauling away tires, televisions, and mattresses makes me a frequent flier at the town dump. The well doesn’t work. The electrical is too dangerous to leave unattended. My hands never seem clean after cleaning out its rooms. The youngest person on my road is maybe fifty-two.
This attitude changed when my father spent last week at the VA. He’s fine, but for several days I fielded phone calls from neighbors and Graftonites. Everywhere I went, selectmen stopped and asked how he was feeling. Dump runs took even longer because everyone heard that my dad was unwell. I offered his direct line at the VA expecting few would follow through. They all called – from our police chief to the historical society members. I’m sure Dad’s roommates hated the incessant telephone rings.
Meals and desserts now fill my father’s fridge and kitchen table, though he’s doing a bang up job with the sweet stuff. Dad takes these gestures to heart, I’m sure, but there’s also a part of him that expects this. Not selfishly, of course, but in a “this is how we do things” sort of way.
Meanwhile, coming from a two year stint in a city where every morning’s bike ride to school felt like a diabolical chase scene, it reminds me why I choose to live here.
Last week I reified the notion of hometown. Us Yankees are pretty convinced it’s about birthplace. I’m more convinced it’s the place into which we invest our time, money, and damns.
More so than ever, I’m glad to have a house project that will keep me here for the foreseeable future. It’s (wicked) nice to be back.