One day earlier this summer, Bill and I walked through our four bedroom house on the water in Florida and had a ritual good-bye. We remembered important things that had happened in different rooms and thought about all the people who had stayed in them. Then we got in the car and began our journey north. I turned to him and said, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…” to which he replied, “Let’s go exploring.”
Certain benchmark ages cry out for response. Turning 65 (which will happen for Bill in October and me in December) is typically marked by signing up for Medicare. We had something further in mind. For the past several years we’d been getting impatient with Florida. I find the heat and humidity oppressive and physically taxing. We were spending more time in our house, less time interacting with people, exercising or pursuing interests. We were challenged less often and I began to see how easy it would be to live in an increasingly narrow world, to grow old. It was time for something to jog us out of what could easily become a rut.
We have always loved Boston. Bill was born about a half dozen miles from where we now live, but moved away as a child. I fell in love with the city as an adult. Good friends and most of Bill’s cousins live here. Our daughter Kate and her husband, Marton, had moved here. In February they gave birth to Leila, their first child, our fourth grandchild. While in the process of figuring out a living situation in Boston we were told by our friend, Margaret, about Beacon Hill Friends House. We went for a visit and fell in love with the place. They accepted us as residents. A week after leaving Florida, we began the process of moving into our third floor, 16 by 18 foot room overlooking Chestnut Street.
During a recent visit to Boston, our friend, Julie, commented that on the surface it looked like our lives were contracting – we had to radically downsize. But, she went on to say, the contraction was in service of an expanded life. That has been our experience so far. We have a great city to explore, 19 other lovely housemates to get to know, easy access to parks, museums, universities, libraries, and public transportation, a new grandchild to watch grow up, and some different and gentler ways of pursuing our careers. It is a magical world. We are so lucky to get to go exploring.