I have had several people ask me why we moved from DePere. The short story: Empty nesters. But you know me. I’m not about the short story. I always gotta write a book. But in the interest of being interesting, I’ll give you the abridged version.
Dave and I got engaged in the middle of a field on Dollar Lane in DePere. We were young and green and dreaming big. But you know how reality reaches in and kinda changes how you look at things – money and circumstances and all that jazz. We couldn’t afford it and that was okay. We found an adorable little house in West DePere, and made our first nest there. Kids started coming, we moved to the next size up on the other side of town, and then Lindsay got sick and then we moved again and then they needed braces, prom dresses, bmx bikes, and cars. You know the song and dance. It was always something. But the dance was lovely, and I wouldn’t change any of it, except maybe the leukemia part for Lindsay.
Now we are in our empty nest stage (almost) and have been able to financially breathe easier for a few years now. We have about 15 years (if all goes well) to retirement, and we are both in good health. After talking a bit, we decided that if we were ever going to have that little piece of country, we needed to do it now. So we started looking.
I will admit that I wasn’t on board right away. My open house attendance was half-hearted and I hated everything we saw. We had lived in our current home for 15 years, and in that particular neighborhood for over 20. And I liked our home and neighborhood. I liked it a lot.
I liked walking the dogs every night and knowing all the houses and people behind the doors. I liked when Bricky drove past and honked. I liked when Pen and Ben were outside and we hollered across the street to each other or when Jim was in his driveway putting up Christmas decorations and we would stop and chat. I liked walking past “the boys” on Erie Street in the summer, when they would be sitting out side in the evening watching the neighborhood. I always felt a little safer because I knew they saw everything. (Geez, I better quit this – I’m starting to depress myself).
Then one Sunday, we went to an open house out here on Scotchman. While it wasn’t the home we purchased, it was the one that began to turn my heart. I remember standing in the living room there, watching a red-tailed hawk wheel around the farmer’s cornfield, and my heart skipped a beat. I knew I would move to be there. I can’t tell you exactly why – it’s not like we didn’t see red tails in DePere. Or eagles or sand hill cranes or deer or great blue herons, because we did. It was more the area and knowing it would all be right in our backyard. Or close to it.
After a lot of talking to the realtor, we decided to try to purchase a spec home they were going to build out there, a few lots down. It would have a three stall garage and a walk out basement, and would have part of the pond in the back yard. We listed our house and crossed our fingers. A lot was riding on whether we could sell our home on time, and Lord knows I didn’t want to move twice.
Now, I have to be honest here and tell you my heart swayed back and forth for a while. I had mood swings from “I can’t wait to move!” to “WAAAAAAH! I don’t want to moooooove! I want to live here forreeeeevvvveeeerrrrrr!” Dave asked me at least three times if I really wanted to keep pursuing it. I kept telling him yes, but I really wasn’t sure. In fact, right before my birthday, I almost decided to take him up on his offer to back out.
We had rented a condo up in Door County for my 50th, right on Lake Michigan. I was stoked because I was finally feeling better, after having been sick for over a month with some mystery virus, and I couldn’t wait for a weekend to snow shoe and tramp along the frozen lake shore. I told my realtor not to schedule any showings that weekend. Showings and open houses were a huge pain in the butt for us because we had to do something with the dogs and cat. This meant a really long hour in the car with fish-breath hyper dogs and a yowling cat, who also occasionally puked for good measure.
We got a call two days before my birthday that there was a couple that wanted to see our house on my birthday, which meant either losing a night at the condo or one of us (meaning Dave – duh – it was my birthday, dammit) staying home and coming later. I couldn’t believe it. I ranted and raved inside my head and called Dave to see what we should do. I really just wanted to throw in the towel and tell the realtor no. To heck with it. This was crossing the line. A gauntlet thrown at my feet. Nay, I shouted! I won’t give in to the heathen realtors who would steal my birthday!
Of course we scheduled it. Dave stayed home and I went up alone (don’t feel too sorry for me, he came up later).
On the way up to door county, I drove past the turn for the new house, and had an epiphany, kind of how the Grinches small heart grew three sizes on Christmas day. I could feel the area calling to me. I felt at home. I realized I had from the beginning, and that I really wanted to move, but had been to afraid to ask God for it. It seemed a silly thing to ask, when people were starving and dying and suffering, but I had to let Him know my heart. So I prayed. I asked God for His blessing, that we would like to move there if it was okay with Him, and that if the answer was no, we would understand.
The folks who came thru that day, the ones I was so annoyed with my realtor about, came thru again on Sunday. By Monday we had an offer. Huh. What do you know.
And the rest, as they say, is history. A lot still had to happen (read my blog about all the cake eating involved), but it all fell into place, one piece at a time. We sold our house with time to spare. The buyers didn’t want to close until mid-March, so plenty of time for the new house to be finished and we would only have to move once. Given my freak out level thru the whole process, it seemed like a miracle.
Now, before anyone starts singing “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me, a Mercedes Benz,” I just want to say it wasn’t like that at all. We didn’t ask for the house to be given to us or to win the lottery or anything like that. All we asked for was guidance and an open door. And you can look at it as coincidence if you want. We choose to believe that God cared enough to give us an answer.
I believe God works that way – that if you talk to Him and have Him in your life, you’re going to hear back from Him. Sometimes I enjoy the conversation, sometimes I don’t. And I don’t always understand what he is doing or why (like, hardly ever). But I wouldn’t want my life to be without Him.
The other day I was driving to work, basically telling God I surely didn’t understand why Jen died, and what part of His plan required this type of loss. It seemed arbitrary and cruel. When I got home, I had a letter waiting for me from a friend, with words of encouragement that assured me that even though I didn’t ‘get’ what God was doing, He was at least listening.
PS -My ancestors are from this area. Champion, to be exact. There is even a Conard road (see pic – I was on it last summer and I am sure I will be again, often) and somewhere a cemetery with some of my ancestors in it.
PPS – When we were growing up, my grandparents had a cottage on the bay. It’s about 4 miles from me now.
PPSS – When my kids were growing up, my parents had a cottage up in Crivitz. This home reminds us both of going there with our kids. I think it’s the open concept, the dark counter tops, and the feel of being up north. Every night we come home from work, we feel like we are going to the cottage.
PPPSSS – Dave’s dad grew up in this area. Attended Holy Cross school and church on Bay Settlement Road and lived not too far from here as a kid. Dad D’s cousin Louie’s dad used to own the land we are currently living on. He still owns a pretty big chunk, and lives only a mile or so away. Less than that as the crow flies. That said, Dad D often stayed at his uncle’s farm, and literally ran and played in these very fields we are now living in. Sometimes I sit, and imagine the DeGroot boys running thru yelling and waving sticks, all brown and dirty and smelling like sun. It makes me smile.
PSPPPSPSPSPSPPS – There is a cemetery up the road with DeGroot ancestors in it, too. And stop thinking the cemetery thing is creepy. I actually like them for some weird reason. I always try to imagine the history of the people buried there – like telling myself a story. Now, I can imagine it, knowing they are people who are a part of who I am.
PPPSSSSPPPPSSSPSPPPSSSSSSSSSP – Maybe it is a tiny bit creepy.