Monday, January 26, 2009

How to Become a Gypsy

Before we moved to New Hampshire to find our antique house, we lived on the other side of the country in a little Craftsman cottage in Washington state. We were halfway through a twenty year mortgage with payments of $170 month(!) when a new neighbor moved in. Fate is so fascinating; if this man had never become our neighbor, we might have missed all of our New England adventures.

When R. and his wife arrived, we welcomed them in neighborly fashion with fresh-baked cookies and offers of whatever help they might need. They were nice enough at first, but then things started to change. They got a dog, a cute little female, but instead of treating her with kindness R. would tie her on a rope out behind the house and yell at her. Since he never bothered to get her spayed, stray male dogs, naturally enough, started coming around. Here's the thing--R. would sit on his back porch and shoot at them. 

Our yards were separated only by some wire mesh stock fencing, as we all raised various farm animals in those homesteader-wannabe days. There was that man, shooting a gun just yards from where our small children wanted to play in our backyard and not too many feet away from my little herd of sheep and goats. Reasoning with him didn't help--he would just get excited and start yelling at us, and that's never good a good thing when the yeller is holding a gun. 

What did we do when faced with an increasingly crazy-acting man armed with plenty of guns and ammunition? Why, we did what any librarian's family would do--we got a book. We found the very book that turned out to be the key to our future, one called Safe Places for the Eighties. Yes, as I'm sure you recall, back in those pre-Internet days we needed a book to look up criminal statistics for the United States. Safe Places was perfect for our gypsy selves--we could look on a map to find the points furthest away from R., then check out the town descriptions along with cost of living, crime, weather, and education statistics. 

After all of our research, we settled on New Hampshire. It sounded nice and historical, it had snow, I had visited there as a child and remembered lots of green trees and hills, and it was located halfway between our respective relatives in Maine and Connecticut. Reading up on the various little towns around the state, we took our road atlas and stuck a pin in an area that was pretty equidistant from the three major cities of Portsmouth, Concord, and Manchester. We figured that we could find work somewhere nearby; somewhere that was commutable. I have to admit that once the pin was stuck in the map we looked for the nearest town with the coolest name, and that is how we found a place called Deerfield Parade. 

I hope you are paying attention. You need to understand this method if you really want to become a gypsy. You pick a cute town name on the other side of the country, put your house on the market, and then, and only then, take a quick trip by plane to check the place out. We did so, somewhat surprised that our springtime wardrobes were entirely inadequate for the month on April in New England. (My little cloth Chinese shoes--a color-coordinated pair for every outfit--were a bust in the snow that was still on the ground). You dash back, pack up and take an enthusiastic road trip cross country and--miracle of miracles--find jobs and a place to live and schools for the kids with no problems or stress at all. 

I find myself shaking my head at our younger, carefree selves. 

Two notes of interest: Years later, after we were well settled in Candia, we found that old road atlas with the pin hole in it. The Gypsy Method had turned out to be a good one, as our new hometown was just next door to a town called--Deerfield Parade.

About R's dog: One day, a couple of months before we moved away, R. was away for the day and we watched--cheering her on--as his little dog struggled up and over the chain link fence of the tiny pen that R. had eventually constructed to keep her in. She took off running across the hills and, as far as we know, was never seen in our neighborhood again. R. came home later and pounded on our door, demanding to know if we had seen her. We denied all knowledge of anything. 

I think his wife later did the same thing. I hope he never found her either.


Judy said...

I think I must have a little bit of gypsy in me. I would love to have moved more than I have in my lifetime. In your previous post you talked about sisters living in the same house and not speaking. We had two sisters here that lived in the first Governor of Kentuckys house for years. It was a huge old brick house. They ran a rope down the middle of the house and each lived on one side not speaking! I thought that was so weird!

Quiet Paths said...

I truly enjoyed reading this account. I wish we would have had a little more courage to venture forth when we first started out, but I guess we are making up for it now. I also can relate to the neighbor experience. Sheesh. Lots of similarities...