Sometimes you just have to write…

Big Stuff #2


our new house!

If you haven’t read Big Stuff #1 yet, it’s here.

I wrote in the last post that there was Big Stuff happening in my life that I hadn’t written about yet. This is Big Stuff #2:

We’re in the middle of buying a house. And it makes me feel like one of the luckiest people in the world that we’re able to do this.

The thing is: we already have a house. It’s a pretty typical Dutch row house, but on the big side, with five bedrooms, built in about 1980, so it’s not particularly pretty, but it’s big. When we bought it, we had two small children, and just wanted lots of BIG. So despite its lack of charm, it’s served us well.

Our daughter and foster daughter went off to college, and we took in an “extra kid,” so now it’s us and two teenage boys. They’ll be out of the house within five years or so.

And we’ve always had a plan. Since we first met, when we were both doing development work in Malawi, it was clear to both of us that we would do something similar again: make ourselves useful somewhere in the world. Once we had kids, though, we didn’t want to drag them around the world while we pursued our own goals. We wanted them to develop roots and make their own decisions about where in the world to build their lives. So we put it off until they’re grown, with the idea of moving back into development work when we “retire.”

So that’s been the plan for years: when my husband retires, I’ll retire early (if we can afford it). We’ll sell our house, buy a much smaller one for just the two of us, sign up with some NGO or other, and only spend summers in the little house.

Even though my husband won’t retire for another ten years or so, we started looking at houses because of the recession. The prices for these charming, tiny houses in the center of our city have dropped considerably. We contacted an agent and started viewing houses.

the original ceiling

And a few weeks ago we found a house we fell in love with. It’s an 1880 former coachman’s house, set in a row of five houses in the interior of a block so there’s no road access at all; it’s not even on Google Street View. It’s quiet and cut off from the hubbub of the city, yet only a couple of blocks from the center of town. It’s got a living room with a very high ceiling which has the original painted design and plasterwork. Upstairs has just one big room, though we’re planning to add a dormer window and divide it in two. The front faces south and has a small garden with fruit trees. We love it.

There was the usual back and forth of offers and counter-offers, but our last bid was accepted, the mortgage has been approved, and we’re just waiting for paperwork now. Our plan for the moment is to do some work on it, furnish it, and rent it out as a short-term rental to visiting doctors or professors, who often come here for just a year. Then, when our kids are out of the house, we’ll move in there ourselves and sell this house.

This is Big Stuff because it makes it all real. When I first came to Holland, the deal I made with my husband was that we’d stay for eight years, the same length of time that he stayed with me in the US, and then I’d decide if I was still willing to stay.

the garden

More than 15 years later, we’re still here. Somehow, buying this smaller house makes it real. It makes it permanent. Somehow, I can’t change my mind anymore. Even though we intend to work in other countries, here is where we’ll return. I meant for the kids to take root, but I’m the one who’s taken root instead.

I’d love to hear your reactions: do you feel rooted to a new place? Or stay rooted to where you came from? How long does it take for this transformation to happen?

4 comments on “Big Stuff #2

  1. Alana (@RamblinGarden)
    March 29, 2013

    Having lived in several parts of the United States during my 60 years I can tell you it takes a while (years) to adapt to a new place. But once you adapt, your home (New York City, in my case) can feel strange – yet somehow familiar. But you certainly don’t feel like you belong there anymore.

  2. rachela
    March 29, 2013

    Yes, I suppose that’s what I expect: familiar, yet strange. I lived in NYC for a year and a half, so visiting that will seem more familiar. I’ve never been to Washington state except for passing through, so I expect that that’ll seem a more general American sort of familiar. I’ll undoubtedly blog about it! Thanks for reading!

  3. Carlana
    April 4, 2013

    “Once we had kids, though, we didn’t want to drag them around the world while we pursued our own goals. We wanted them to develop roots and make their own decisions about where in the world to build their lives.” – I really like this. Very admirable to put their needs ahead of your personal pursuits. Too many parents do it the other way around and it can negatively impact the lives and future and of their children. As a former teacher I can tell you just how hard it can be for kids that moved around a lot, even it is is from family to family and not necessarily travelling around the country or world.

  4. rachela
    April 4, 2013


    Glad you like it! It’s interesting to see how they’re “turning out.” Our daughter is turning into a real adventurer. She’s studying now in the UK and talking about volunteering with VSO or similar for a couple years after she’s done just like I did after college. Our son is clearly going to stay here in Holland, judging by his general reluctance to travel.

    I’ve seen the negative effects as well. These traveling kids make friends very quickly and easily, but they’re clearly not deep friendships; they learn to drop friends much too easily when they move.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on March 28, 2013 by in Family, Life in Holland and tagged , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: