Thirty-three years ago my parents moved to 51 Donald Lewis Drive in Seekonk, Mass. — along with their three kids, ages 7, 5, and 2 — and on Monday put this classic Colonial on the market. With this post I’m not trying to help their sale, but simply mark a milestone as I occasionally do here. Plus, maybe it’ll be a refreshing break from the “Best backpacking water bottles of 2019”-type content that is annoyingly superficial and seems increasingly common.
I’m glad my parents — who are now nearly 70 years-old — are making this move. They’ve always been realistic about their mortality, and they’ve never delayed tough decisions and conversations. For a few more years I’m sure they could still maintain a single-family home, use the stairs to the second floor and basement, and drive 60-90 minutes up I-93 to visit my sisters and their families north of Boston.
But as I’ve witnessed with my elderly neighbors next door, it’s best to move when you easily can, not when you obviously must. A year ago Dan was riding his bike to the grocery store and doing yoga three times a week. But in October he fell and broke his shoulder, and has fallen twice since, smashing through a glass coffee table and busting his nose on a door. They can’t get to Windcrest — a senior living facility south of Denver — fast enough, and the heavy lifting has fallen mostly on Abby.
My career may have started earlier if I’d grown up in Boulder or Bozeman or Bend, but Seekonk served me well. It was safe and family-oriented, offered easy access to Providence and the Newport beaches, and had enough swamps and powerline easements to scratch the adventure itch of a teenager. Its school district was middle-of-the-pack in Massachusetts. I like I was given enough resources and opportunities to compete with students from more privileged towns, but still learned to work hard and be scrappy like students from poorer districts.
Exorbitant real estate prices and poorly maintained properties (and often both) are the norm in Boulder, and seeing this 2,500-square foot property on a half-acre lot for just $489,000 makes me question the sustainability of living in The Republic.
By my perspective today the house was tight for five, but at least we all had our own bedrooms. It will feel less cramped for the next family — once my parents finished paying college tuition, they added a shower to the downstairs half-bath, built a gorgeous sun-room above the backyard patio, and removed the wall between the kitchen and dining room. Sweltering summer nights are now bearable thanks to the new A/C ducts. The basement was partially finished in the 1990’s, but would benefit from updating and another bathroom.
In the huge backyard we had a swing set and garden, and played catch and soccer. Soaring hardwoods are common in the neighborhood, but they struggled to take root back there. Our black lab Sport stripped the bark off a red maple shortly after it was planted, to express her displeasure about being tied up. And the 18-inch oak sapling that we transplanted from my grandfather’s house after he passed away grew to 25 feet before being blown over in a storm.
At the end of the street are still the public athletic fields, which the town has continually improved and which is now a first-rate manicured complex. In 1986 there were only two baseball diamonds, neither with an outfield fence or dugouts. The sole tennis court was unusable. And where there are now irrigated soccer fields was a dairy farm that had been reclaimed by the forest. The wild space made for an adventurous “shortcut” to Martin Elementary, in an era when parents still permitted their children to do such things.
I don’t know the composition of the neighborhood now, but there were eight young families on the original Donald Lewis and “the new road” that was tacked on in the late-1980’s. We built bike ramps out of plywood and bike courses over dirt mounds in vacant lots, raced on our Rollerblades and skateboards, caught turtles and tadpoles in a nearby pond, and had legendary games of Manhunt in the summer.
My parents’ new pad in Andover in a 62+ community will suit them well. Everything important is on the main floor; yard maintenance and snow removal is included; and my sisters and aunt are 10 to 25 minutes away. My dad is notoriously resistant to change — I think he still wears pleated pants, and I know he’s been wearing the same Johnston & Murphy dress shoes for several decades now — and finding a new home (and, by extension, settling on a new lifestyle) was a challenging process.
Amanda and I know it will be difficult for my parents to leave Seekonk and their memory-filled home, but we’re really happy for them and are excited about the next chapter in their lives.