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For sale: My childhood home

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.

First day of school, 1986. My older sister Kerri and younger sister Christine on the right. I’m in the green jacket with my arm around best friend Paul, and my neighbor Jeff is behind us.

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.

Amanda and dad with mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, 2012

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.

Posted in on April 3, 2019
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20 Comments

  1. Brandon on April 3, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    Great trip down memory lane. Growing up in a similar type of neighborhood in Maine, I can relate to a lot of those experiences and am facing similar impending circumstances with change-resistant parents. Maybe it’s a New England thing. Hope their transition goes well – sounds like it’s for the best!

  2. Auntie Sue on April 3, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Well said Andy. I couldn’t be happier for your Mom and Dad. We will certainly miss them but we just know that their adjustment is not going to be a difficult one.
    Wishing them much love and happiness.

  3. Nate Wills on April 3, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    It’s a small world and we are definitely getting older. I used to go over Paul’s house all the time in first, second, and third grade. His parents took me to my first game at Fenway Park! Now I live in Aurora and work at DIA. Sounds like your parents are coming out here to Highlands Ranch? They will love it. As you know, Colorado is awesome for hiking and fly fishing. Andrew, you probably don’t remember me, but if you are ever flying out of DIA or in SE Aurora, hit me up. It’s always good to meet up with people from Seekonk. I saw this because one of our mutual friends commented on FB.

    • Andrew Skurka on April 3, 2019 at 9:02 pm

      Wow, small world indeed. I definitely remember you, though I wouldn’t be able to identify a 41-year-old Nate Wills on the street.

      My parents aren’t moving to Highlands Ranch. My elderly neighbors are. My parents are staying in MA, to Andover, where the center of gravity is (i.e. where the grandkids live).

      • Nate Wills on April 3, 2019 at 9:12 pm

        Easy… I’m only 40, still ugly, bald, but in much better shape…

        Sorry, I misunderstood about your parents. Hit me up when you decide to go visit them via DIA or if you ever wanna go fly fishing.You have my email.

  4. Paul Mags on April 3, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Well written, Andrew. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Karen Skurka on April 4, 2019 at 6:17 am

    Very nice,Andy. All that you wrote is true. This has been a wonderful place for us and is filled with good memories. I hope these positive vibes will continue for the next family that lives here. The memories will come with us.

  6. Steve Sims on April 4, 2019 at 8:21 am

    As always Andy well written and well said. Good for your parents making the move before they have to.

  7. Carol LePage on April 4, 2019 at 9:23 am

    Wonderful, loving memories of your childhood and how appreciative you are for being raised in a fantastic family. You have a gift for expressing yourself.

  8. langleybackcountry on April 4, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    Nice. I grew up in western MA (Amherst and Leverett) and got my start exploring the creek that ran through our neighborhood. Our legendary neighborhood game was kick-the-can. I started hiking the local hills (Mt Toby and Norwottock).

    A year ago my parents moved to a condo from the house we had built in the woods in the early 80s. Your words about moving while you can ring so true. I am in Amherst now for my dad’s memorial service, and it gives my sister and I so much comfort to hear my mom exclaim repeatedly how much she likes it and how happy she is they moved.

  9. Uncle George on April 4, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    Are your parents really that old? Better check your math😁

  10. Warren on April 4, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    I swing by your site habitually to soak up anything I can learn about human propelled travel. This post was well written and extremely enjoyable. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Jenny Blaringtonson on April 5, 2019 at 3:36 am

    Andrew,

    What do you have to say in response to the reports that this house is haunted? What else are you trying to hide?

  12. Shira Goldberg on April 5, 2019 at 4:56 am

    This was beautiful Andy! Seekonk was an amazing place to live. Our children could walk to Martin school where they had some of the best teachers ever. Playing outside and at the home of a friend was the norm. As parents, we always knew they were safe. Our daughter, Noa and your sister, Christine, were great friends. When we moved away in 1995, your parents, along with many of Noa’s friends, flew to St. Louis, Missouri to attend her Bat Mitzvah. We now live in Buffalo, NY where both Rob and I grew up. And, closer to family..
    We think and talk about Seekonk often and have such wonderful memories.
    Rob and I wish your parents a easy move, a smooth transition and years filled with joy, adventure and contentment.

  13. Mike D on April 5, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Yeah, this is nice and all but what IS the best water bottle for the 2019 season? Is SmartWater still the king or has a new challenger taken the throne!

    • Andrew Skurka on April 5, 2019 at 10:49 am

      Well, there has been a lot of recent innovation in this category, making it hard to say which one is truly the best. I think instead I will come up with multiple “best for” categories (e.g. best for multi-day trips, best for Colorado, best for people with small hands) so that I can recommend them all. Conveniently, I will probably generate more affiliate revenue that way, too.

      It might still be a few weeks before I release the final version. My research has been exhaustive — I have had to unbox them and take a 2-mile hike through the local open space in order to thoroughly understand their pros and cons, and to get a sense for their long-term performance.

      • Mike D on April 5, 2019 at 3:12 pm

        I eagerly ancipate a nuanced and insightful spreadsheet!

  14. Russell J on April 7, 2019 at 11:39 am

    I enjoy your off-piste musings as much as I enjoy your fact-based backpacking-related content. I’ve told you this at least once before, but let me say it again: You are a really gifted writer. I don’t know your parents, your neighborhood, or, frankly you all that well, so why would I have any interest in reading about your parents selling their house? Because it made me think about my childhood, my parents, and my house growing up. Good writers like you are able to connect with their readers over just about any topic. As one of my first bosses told me, “There are no boring stories … only boring writers.”

    Come to think of it, you should write a book … wait – nevermind.

  15. Doug K on May 3, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    thank you, a story told well..

    Good for your parents. My parents and my in-laws both were pragmatic and sensible about moving on, which is a gift to their children – I’m grateful to them. But it is sad to leave the house. My sons don’t want us to leave the house they grew up in..

    “a 62+ community”
    I’m 59 and not quite ready.. but am starting to wonder how many more years I can get up to the high country.. (link from my name).

    I know where Seekonk is, since when we immigrated, one of the two people we knew in the USA lived in Barrington, just down the road. We had Thanksgiving in Barrington a number of times in the 90s. I really liked RI, just a bit short on mountains.

  16. Dano on July 31, 2019 at 5:27 am

    Good luck and lots of health to your parents!

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