Between the Lines: Adventures in Moving, Vermont Style

From the ancient caves of Lascaux to the 21st century towers of Dubai, there has always been something magical about the ways in which humans convert nothingness into spaces for living.
Fascinating though the process may be, though, it rarely goes as planned. And sometimes it’s the unexpected wrinkles — the shelf in the wrong size that gets turned into a lovely coffee table, the windows placed too low but leaving room for paintings — it’s these little twists in the process that alchemize the mere physical object of a house into memories, and a home.
The movers showed up at 8 a.m. a couple of Saturdays ago. All of my worldly goods had been loaded into the truck by 10 a.m. We drove to the other side of town, to unload everything into the new house.
There we found the builder and one of his crew, completing some last-minute projects.
I was surprised to learn that they had been there all night. And even more surprised that they were still smiling. I thought all-nighters were just for college students.
It was my seventh move in eight years, all of them to places in the Addison County. I won’t go into the reasons for those moves here, since most of them were tied to my somewhat complicated romantic life and it is, after all, a small town.
Suffice it to say that I hope this move, into a newly built house, is my last one before they take me out the front door in a horizontal position. Hopefully many years from now.
The inspiration for this recent relocation began a year ago, with Move No. 6. Once that insanity was completed and I was parked in yet another rental, I decided that apparently the only way to stop the madness was this: Invest so much time and money into a place that even I wouldn’t be stupid enough to move again.
As regular readers may recall, I determined early last fall that, despite the somewhat modest size of my bank account, I would fulfill a lifelong dream and work with an architect to design and build a house.
After several months negotiating the real estate and land acquisition process, I began discussions with an architect in earnest.
It was then that I truly began to learn the value of breathing deep and letting go.
We hear a lot of talk about people building their dream house. Someday I want to meet one of those people and ask them what it’s like.
Because for those of us with annual incomes that don’t reach into the seven figures, the process is inevitably littered with compromises. We quickly have to give up realizing our dream and aim toward a reasonable facsimile.
That proved true in my case even though I had just about an ideal situation. I was working with an accomplished architect who was a friend, a creative designer, and a good communicator. Together we decided to engage a local builder who had an outstanding reputation and in fact had built my architect’s own house. We all got along great.
But as I confronted my Cadillac dreams with a Chevrolet budget, I soon saw the chasm between what I wanted to do and what I could realistically afford to do.
Moreover, I lacked a specific vision about many elements of the house design.
I presented the architect and his equally skilled partner with a list of a few essentials. Then I let them have at it. I wasn’t quite sure what the result would be.
It felt a bit like being in a foreign country and ordering dinner from a menu where I couldn’t translate half the words. I trusted the chefs, pointed at a couple items on the menu, and hoped for the best.
I’m happy to report that the chefs produced an excellent meal.
Yes, there are still a few items to be finished on the house and no, I didn’t get to install the basketball court and in-home theater with seating for 30 people.
But as I begin to inhabit the new space, I’m routinely discovering new things about how well it works and why it was designed and built this way.
And as with any good house, the architect and builder created something uniquely handmade — right down to the ghost of a sneaker footprint, which was inadvertently left in the floor when they poured the concrete.
As I watched more than a dozen men pool their efforts over six months to build the place, I was reminded again how skilled our local trades people are. Very competent men, who could make more money elsewhere, choose to be in the construction trade here so they and their families can live in Vermont.
While I settle into the new digs there is, of course, the matter of all the unopened boxes strewn around the house. I understand that, like opening and sending thank you notes for wedding presents, I have a year to open those boxes.
I’m trying not to be discouraged by the fact that I was in my previous house for a year — and many of those same boxes remained unopened during my entire tenure. The road to hell, as they used to say, is paved with good intentions.
In the meantime, though, I’m enjoying the process of trying to turn a new house into a little piece of heaven.
Gregory Dennis’s column appears here, after a short hiatus, every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.WordPress.com. E-mail him at [email protected].

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