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Liz Bickel | all galleries >> Themed Galleries >> Themes: Multiple Galleries >> Everything: Multiple Galleries >> T >> This and That > Our First House
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Our First House

Although we briefly lived in NYC immediately after getting married, I consider the above house my real “first married home”. I absolutely HATED apartment living. Although we were traveling aboard during most of the time that we lived in the apartment, I still hated apartment living. I grew up in suburbia and could not adjust to city living. So, I quickly made my new husband promise to buy me a house - with a willow tree in the backyard - ASAP. Our (originally “his”) New York apartment was just a place where we temporarily lived together. I never considered it my home.

To help pay for a house, my husband gave up his last bachelor toy & sold his “yacht” that slept 6. In place of it, we bought a house in suburbia with 5 bedrooms. The town we moved to was selected because it was within easy driving distance of a well-respected university for me to get my college education. We moved just in time for me to start my freshman year of college. Being married to an older, “established” man does have its advantages. Unlike others my age, I didn’t have to wait for the house of my dreams.

To say the least, I was very happy with my very-own first house. Much bigger than the childhood home where I grew up, “my house” was a 10 room, 2 ½ bath, colonial on a 1/3+ acre lot. Most lots in the town were just ¼ acre. So, it felt like a luxury to have the few additional feet to our yard. Within a couple of weeks of our first moving in, my husband also planted the willow tree that I wanted in the backyard. He was true to his word.

However, moving to suburbia meant that my husband then had to commute 1 hour and 30 minutes (each way in good weather & traffic) to get to his job in Manhattan. I commuted only 25 minutes (in heavy traffic – 15 minutes without the traffic) to go to school. Obviously, he loved me a lot to give up his carefree, bachelor’s life in the city to become a married, suburban commuter with an extra 3 hours added on to his 9 to 5 work day. While we lived in this home, we normally had dinner at 7pm; just after he got home from work: Monday-Friday. Sometimes later if the turnpike traffic was especially bad.

I see that the redwood picket fence that my husband built himself (from scratch: picket-by-picket) is still standing today all these years later. He built it to last, and it has!!! When we lived here, the house was painted white. The front door and the window shutters were painted a dark, royal blue. What can I say? I liked blue. I still think my color choices were much more attractive than those of the current owners.

Although a white picket fence would have added to the charm, we deliberately didn’t paint the fence my husband built. Instead, we weather sealed it & allowed the natural redwood color to shine through. While we owned the house, the roof was a dark grey. Like the house color being changed, that obviously was also replaced after we left. The siding material was (and still is) cedar shakes. The original owners had painted it white before we got it. I liked that. I just changed the trim color.

Our first house wasn’t brand new when we bought it, but it was close to it. It was 2 years old and had been owned by a Mormon couple who only lived in it (off & on) for less than 6 months. I don’t remember their exact story, but they bought it new but then, almost immediately, decided to move back to Salt Lake City. Their entire family never lived in the house; so, everything was pristine & looked brand new when we moved in.

Like most homes in the New York suburbs, it was a tract home (ie, similarly designed houses built on a tract of land). But during our years of living here, we customized it to our tastes. We removed the stock kitchen cabinets & added high quality, real cherry wood cabinets with brass pulls; which I see the current owners still have. My husband single handedly also built a large redwood deck, a large redwood screen house, plus, the redwood fence. Although an office executive by day, he has always been a skilled “builder and fixer” in his free time. He enjoys working with his hands. Things just come naturally to him. Although they lived 200 miles away, my parents occasionally helped with some of our home remodeling projects when they came to visit. I remember my husband & them working together to wall paper the ceiling in our kitchen. Good memories. Although I did pick up a paint brush, I mainly supervised when it came to most things requiring manual labor. I lack the skills my husbands & parents came by naturally.

My husband & I did a lot of landscaping. My husband planted every single bush & tree himself. I planted the flowers and even had a small, 20 bush, rose garden. Plus, I had annuals everywhere. Much more than I now grow. Plus bulbs. I literally had hundreds of tulips and daffodil bulbs. Three of those daffodil varieties now still bloom at our home here. Sadly, the rest didn’t survive our move. I even had a small garden (12x12’) in the backyard of my first married home. My husband dug the soil up and turned it over each Spring, but I attended all the growing and harvesting by myself. It was fun to grow my own veggies to cook in my very own kitchen merely several yards away. That garden was under our kitchen window. Our Pug dog helped to harvest strawberries. LOL. Life was good.

We decorated the interior of our first house to my tastes. At that time, that was the taste of a teenager & girl in her early 20’s. However, my taste couldn’t have been too bad because when my MIL’s interior designer visited, he liked what I had done. He later admitted that he ended up copying many of these ideas for his clients. VBG. Based on my youthful outlook, I did design elements that he had never considered. He said that both he and his clients really liked my novel ideas. I never used his design services myself, but he was able to get us good prices in high quality furniture that I had selected for my new home. We still have that same furniture today. If you buy classic, high quality, it lasts and doesn’t go in & out of style.

Our first home above came with oak hardwood floors in the living room, 4 of the 5 bedrooms, and the dining room. Unlike the current owners, we kept those pretty, hardwood floors and just added area rugs that we had purchased in our world travels. Only the Family Room, Master Bedroom suite, my office, one guest room and the stairs (plus the upstairs hall foyer) had wall to wall carpeting. The developer had put wall to wall carpeting in those areas. It was all the same carpeting. However, I quickly changed that original stock carpeting to higher quality carpeting that suited my tastes better. Each room was different. Each room had its own personality.

We also eliminated all of the “builder’s stock vinyl and Formica” in the entrance foyer & the baths. I selected & my husband installed classier ceramic tile. Plus, I added wallpaper to most of the rooms in the house. I liked the individuality and expression of personality of wallpaper. Of course, none of that shows in this photo. But the memories are there for me. We bought a house and made it into "our" home.

Although it is in the shadows in the above photo, I spent many Summertime evenings sitting on the front porch while I waited for my husband to come home from work. To pass the time, I read the evening paper or else did homework (during my college years); while watching the goings on in the neighborhood. It was a very closeknit neighborhood with everyone casually popping in & out of each other’s houses unannounced. In today’s modern world, I’m sure that few do this anymore. These days, I now only know my current neighbors well enough to say hello. Interestingly, when my husband & I bought the house above, I was the same age (or younger) than many of our neighbors ‘ children. Still, I had no problem with “fitting in” with both the parents and the kids.

The above photo brings back all kinds of good memories from when I was a newlywed. If my husband hadn’t taken a job transfer - which required that we leave the New York area - we might still be living in this house. It was a really nice home with a very good layout. It was big & offered most everything any average girl could ever want. We entertained in it a lot. Plus, we also gave quite a few, very large parties. It was perfect for both. I was happy in this house. Life was good. It represents my start into adulthood. My home office was the middle window on the second story. Although the first-floor bedroom was intended to be either a home office or a guest room, I instead preferred this upstairs room to be my office. It spoke to me.

The big tree in the front yard has been there forever. I think it was there long, long before anyone ever considered turning the land into a housing development. That tree seems “smaller” today than when we lived in the house. However, weather damage over the years may have played some role in that. The tree definitely has been pruned back. It used to extend over the driveway.
Although we sold the above house quite a few years ago, much of the landscaping design we did amazingly still exists in the yard. When we bought the house, all was a blank slate: just grass & the big tree next to the driveway.

Since I was 5 years old, I’ve only lived in 3 different houses. My parents, the one above, and now, our current, custom built one I made a lot of lasting memories in each one. Just wish the current owners of the house above hadn’t painted my “newly married, collage days” home in such an ugh (IMHO) color combo… But different strokes for different folks. When we lived there, I found it so pretty and “classic” in white and royal blue. Nevertheless, it’s still a nice house; no matter what the color. If the lot size was larger, I could go back and be happy. But I’ve grown used to living on acreage. I don’t think 1/3 acre would feel comfortable after having over 3 acres to now call home.

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Helen Betts15-Jan-2023 23:35
Just wanted to say I found your narrative very interesting!
larose forest photos15-Jan-2023 22:46
This makes fascinating reading! I love looking at houses, even better, hearing about them. This one is charming but I agree that your choice of dark royal blue is infinitely preferable (my favourite colour too). I have lived in so many houses in a number of countries, so I rather envy you having lived in only three, that gives a sense of rootedness and place. VV
mic_hong15-Jan-2023 17:38
Yes, it's a nice reading. The landscape is so green and lush as compared to our landscapes in California where the drought has been persistent for several years now except for this winter season with a deluge of rain storms one after another lately in the last two weeks of 2023. We currently have the so-called atmospheric rivers (aka Hawaiian Express, tropical storms) cascading down to us from way above outer space causing untold damages. Mother of Nature can be fierce and impersonal at times...
laine14-Jan-2023 23:48
A nice story, Liz. Your love for this place is very clear also your childhood and current homes.
All three are beautiful. V