Thank you to everyone who left comments or wrote to me privately about the house in Newton!
Today I heard from a faraway friend who told me she had lived in that very neighborhood years ago — without a car. She told me she felt so isolated there that, after six months, she broke her lease and moved to Somerville, where she thrived. She said I'd need to learn to start driving if I moved there and that I'd need to be up for some major lifestyle changes.
So am I up for that?
Answer: ..... NO!
I thanked her for moving to Newton long ago, and being miserable, and saving me a lot of trouble.
She was also able to tell me from personal experience about what it's like to suddenly have a large piece of property to care for when you've never had more than some flowerpots. She said I'd have to commit to doing plenty of physical work and/or a pay other people a lot to keeping it looking good.
While I'd love to finally have an opportunity do some gardening, maintaining (shoveling, raking, pruning, mowing, planting, mulching, spraying, fertilizing, watering...) a half acre of sloping shrubbery and lawn was never what I had in mind.
Now that she's confirmed my suspicions, I can trust my own instincts. I mean, I knew that house and neighborhood had issues, and I felt unsure about them — we never made an offer, after all. But after five years of house-hunting, I'm messed up. I'm desperate, weary, scared, traumatized, and confused. Whenever something that seems just right for us comes along these days, I assume we'll never be able to get it because we'll be outbid, or there will be smoking or noisy neighbors, or pet regulations. I can't help it because, for five years, that's been the case. So when a property that's not quite right but still possible comes along, I feel a duty to consider it from every angle and try to find a way to make it work for us. So far, that hasn't worked out, either.
When it comes down to it, Newton just isn't "us." (We actually said that, aloud and with certainty, a few years ago after our first trek out there, and it turns out that we knew what we were doing at the time. But we keep questioning our beliefs as the hunt drags on.) Brookline might work for us. We're comfortable in Back Bay, Beacon Hill and a lot of the South End. I should be okay with Cambridge and Somerville. But my gut tells me I'm not. My husband likes Cambridge for some reason. So we'll keep looking there but I know in my heart that I'd vastly prefer to stay on this side of the Charles. (Luckily for me, every house we've looked at there in our price range either sells for hundreds of thousands over the asking price or needs hundreds of thousands' worth of work we can't afford, either. And I'm fine with that, really.)
People keep telling us we will need to make compromises if we are ever to settle on a place. We know that. We've compromised and tried to buy several places, all of which had various issues, but the sellers accepted higher offers. People also tell us not to give up our dreams, to have a clear idea of what we really want and to hang on until we find it. But they don't have the wild imaginations we have, so we know that's not going to work. At this point, we have maybe 100 ideas about what might work for us and make us happy. We're so flexible we can bend over backwards and tie ourselves in knots, apparently.
We saw a condo today on Beacon Street that I've loved since I first saw it in 1987. I couldn't afford it then but I never forgot it. I've seen it a few times since then, when it was for sale, even if I wasn't in the market. It has walnut-stained floors and two fireplaces — the one in the bedroom has a big window right above the mantel (coolest Victorian architectural trick ever). It has a high-ceilinged, beautifully proportioned living room with a fireplace, french doors to a long private deck above some garages, and beautiful molding and wainscoting. It has a compact kitchen, one bathroom, and a long hallway. Bu it has no place for an office for my husband. It used to be too big for my budget and now it's too small. But I still love it.
It's lucky for him that the downstairs neighbor came home as we were waiting to go in. She introduced herself, told us she was "very quiet," then started blasting music with a thumping bass that filled the apartment. The broker tried to tell us it was from a car outside, but it didn't fade when the light turned green.
Maybe something good will come along tomorrow.