We paid off our mortgage on Tuesday. We asked for a payout balance and had the bank wire the funds. The trick is that we will still be putting the money into the bank to cover insurance and taxes. It feels good even so.
As I type, my husband is realizing a long-term goal. He is emptying the attic. It is part of a broader effort to streamline the house and rid ourselves of accumulated stuff. We have filled the garage and atrium with things that will not return to the house.
For many years I have presented my husband with a pair of champagne flutes on our anniversary. We generally broke them, or at least one of them, but I still have twenty or more cluttering up a cabinet.
No one wants this sort of thing anymore, I find. And neither do I.
In my childhood, coming to the beach was an enormous effort. The highway through Arch Cape was so evenly lined with aged spruce that finding the turn to the narrow gravel track leading to my grandfather’s house was tricky. My mother had spent all her childhood summers here, but even so we always overshot the turn. Today, and especially during the 4th, the change is unmistakable. Nearly all the houses are short-term rentals. A new business of several thousand square feet will be added to the property that was a tiny deli and post office in my childhood. The three-unit rental cabins south of us are converted to year-round rental use and a new 7-unit motel is only the latest.
This is not the quiet, isolated beach where my great grand-aunts purchased property for $10 in 1911. They packed up toilet paper for the summer and drove on the beach at low tide to get here on Memorial Day and stayed till Labor Day. My grandfather inherited the place in the 30s and continued the tradition. My mother raked crabs for supper as a child. She and her sister had to clean the lanterns of soot once a week. There was no electricity or running water. The outhouse hung over the swamp next door. The house on that sand-filled lot rents for $695/night in September these days. It’s fully booked for the rest of the summer at over a thousand/night.
The house was always “too rich for our blood” with taxes costing more than the mortgage on our Seattle house. When we moved to my grandfather’s house, it was a two-bedroom, 1 1/2 bath, one story house. We added back the second story my grandfather removed in the 40s. Our children were born here and raised and went to public school here. Beyond home improvements, we have added too much stuff.
I have bins of yarn and fabric and some day I must have whittled down our possessions so that our sons will not be faced with the monumental task of doing it for us. We did that for my mother, my grandmother, my aunt, and even my grandmother’s second husband’s brother. We still have unexamined boxes of family documents and photos that my mother never sorted and which I will never sort. All the lifetime accumulation of stuff no one wants. If I could sell it, we might afford a vacation. In 44 years of marriage we had no honeymoon and have never traveled for longer than the week spent with friends in Alberta nearly 30 years ago. It is memories of that sort I still desire. But then I live in a vacation paradise, too beautiful to leave. Instead I have beautiful things.
I confess even I no longer want them.
When I explained to my mother that inheriting my grandfather’s house was the reason we had children, that having a safe and largely undeveloped place for children to play was essential to our vision of child-rearing, she called that “a ridiculous reason to have children.”
Maybe she never made the connection between her own childhood spent playing in the woods in Gresham and on the sand here, and my own childhood play in woods and swamp north of Seattle. I cannot imagine growing up in a city. I cannot picture what sort of childhood that would have been. My husband and I both “ran wild” as children. We were determined that our children would have that opportunity.
Those times and those ideals of childhood freedom seem to have gone the way of typewriters. Manual typewriters.
Taxes were the largest portion of our mortgage payment, and living here is really more than we can afford. It always was. There has been no time since 1978 when we could have afforded this house. It has been an enormous gift to live here. Every morning we go for our walk. And Gary is about done emptying the attic.
The china is beautiful. Want it?