We find ourselves wrapping up an extensive (and expensive) exterior remodel project. It started out with our old (ca 1964) house needing a paint job. But what if… and now it has morphed into new siding, structural changes, new deck rail system (looks like money!) and just a general correction of decades of several owners’ efforts to add to or change the structure. Our little house on Harmony Lane is finishing up to be a showpiece. At least to us, anyway.
Why did we do it? Why at our age did we spend this kind of time, money, and effort for, really, nothing more than looks?
It started in 2018, with the decision to put a pool in the ground. This was a long-time dream for Diana. She loves the water and the sun and any combination thereof. We did not think we could, because of septic system rules, but then we found out that we could. So we did. Now, pools are expensive, even more than we thought, and, as a retired Realtor, I know they do not add real value to the property. You will not get a return on your investment, unless that return is your personal enjoyment. I always told my clients that “You put a pool in for yourself, not for a future buyer.”
Having put the price of a good car into a hole in our backyard, we decided that this would be our home, until we head to that sweet bye-and-bye and get the keys to our mansion over the hilltop.
Not being wealthy, any decision of this financial magnitude means something else must give. After I built our patio oasis a few years back, complete with hot tub, fireplace, and grill, we stopped renting cabins in the mountains. And after the pool was complete, we agreed to end our expensive trips to the beach. This current project means we will limit our travels going forward.
That is not as sad as it seems, initially. I had the great pleasure of growing up in a variety of states and visiting many countries. Diana, after joining the Navy, also got around quite a bit and, after rejoining a few years back, ended up in really exotic places in the Middle East. We have been around, we have seen plenty of sights, ate and drank the local culture in places as far-flung as California to Kuwait. So settling in on Harmony Lane is not a bad gig.
Just a few years back we got our passports, with the idea of doing some serious international travel. I wanted to revisit the glories and wonders of my youth in Europe. We studied guidebooks, watched Rick Steve travelogues, talked and planned and dreamed of the places we’d go. We learned how to pack, what’s the best way to get around overseas, currency conversions – we were ready for adventure! We also talked about adventures here in the good ol’ USA, as we have never been to Alaska or visited the far Northeast. There is so much country, and so much world, that you can stick a pin in a map and have a grand time at it.
But things change. Aging parents move in, medical calamities loom, pools go in the ground, family crises intervene, retirement comes sooner than anticipated. And one day you wake up and realize that maybe life at home is the best trip of all. Especially after the current coronavirus pandemic, since it has actually become nearly impossible to travel far and wide, even if you wanted to.
All of that added up to our current situation. With our house paid for, few bills left to pay, the kids taking care of themselves, only one small car payment, we found ourselves, for the first time in our lives, with real extra money. As the market crashed, I cashed out a SEP I had because I knew I was too old to see it recover. And we put all our money into the house, using the logic that the best investment is a place to live. Since we had to quarantine (for my own significant health reasons) we figured we may as well make our little old house the house of our dreams. Well, realistic dreams anyway.
They will hopefully wrap up the remodel job this week. It is already quite stunning, a gorgeous cottage that would be clamored after for big bucks if it sat on the Northshore in Chattanooga. As we floated in the pool yesterday for happy hour, with my “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere” sign hanging above the bar, we realized that this is as good as it gets. Or even needs to get. Some folks may have giant yachts, some folks may have multiple homes, some folks may enjoy lifestyles of the rich and famous. But we have this life, and I am reminded of this song:
“We may never get to Paris
And find the café of our dreams
But our table still will hold a world of memories
If we never get to Venice
And roam the streets alone
We’ll hold our worlds together and we’ll keep the best of both.” (1995, Scott and Christine Denté)
We may never roam too far or see any sights we haven’t seen, but a man could do a whole lot worse than enjoying his wife of nearly 36 years, the peace and pleasure of retirement, the warm feeling of contentment. And while we may never get to Paris, we will enjoy the sun setting over the mountain from our swimming pool vantage point.
Maybe the fine folks in Paris and Venice should be singing about Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee!