Be careful what you wish for

Posted December 3rd, 2009 by Penny Wise

Good heavens, what a week! Noel and Ali have been at school camp for the week, due back today. Liam and I had the week all planned out, which for him included skating as much as he liked and for me a leisurely day spent Christmas shopping. Unfortunately thanks to the endless days of torrential rain and thunderstorms, Liam didn't get to set foot on his skateboard for more than two minutes. He then came down with a rotten cold which put the cobblers on my shopping trip and has had the last two days off school. It also looks as though he has kindly given it to me.

On top of it all, the night before Noel left for camp he received some news we have been wanting to hear for years. A position had become available in Whangamata - our favourite place in the entire universe - and the job was Noel's, if he wanted it. Liam immediately jumped up and started dancing around the house and I have to admit I felt the same. Ali promptly burst into tears and wailed 'But what about my friends?' As for Noel, the timing was hardly fantastic as he was just about to head off into the back of beyond with 40 kids for several days and knew he wasn't going to get a moment to himself to contemplate the idea.

So I've been doing a lot of soul searching over the past few days and trying to put some things in place to help us make a decision. I mean, this is Whangamata for goodness sake! Nature's playground! The place we love to be more than anywhere else in the universe. Land of stunning views and a million happy memories. Even before the kids were born Noel and I used to go there and always had trouble leaving. We would spend half our holidays looking at real estate and hoping to buy a business viable enough for us to live there permanently. Unfortunately being a seaside town, the work was so seasonal that we could never find anything to sustain us all year round. Now we have a job offer on a plate for Noel, with the added bonus of me being to work pretty much anywhere.

The night that we received the news I couldn't sleep. I was too busy visualising daily walks on the beach, the dogs frolicking in the waves and endless sunny days spent together. I was sold. Until I got up the next morning and looked out the kitchen window at the gorgeous show of roses, bougainvillea and frangipani on the back fence, interspersed with a healthy crop of raspberries and passionfruit. And walked out to get the mail past the glorious trail of wildflowers and our beloved orchard, all laden with baby fruit; some of which we've been waiting years for.

As I perused new houses online, I realised two things. One, real estate of any kind in Whangamata is NOT cheap. And two, before we could get too carried away, we needed to get our house valued. For all we knew, selling our house could buy us no more than a caravan on a postage stamp of lawn. So I arranged for a real estate company to come and give an approximate valuation. They arrived the next day, three of them. The first thing they did was admire the lake view and all our established trees and plantings. The senior agent remembered the place as it was before we bought it and marvelled at what we had done with it. They loved the orchard, the vege gardens, the views, all the things we loved too.

As they made their way inside I was a little self conscious. After all, half the wallpaper was ripped off in the bathroom where I had made plans to decorate it three years ago and the kids' playroom was in dire need of a paint. But all they could see were the things I saw seven years before when I looked at the place for the first time. Such as the warm, homely feel you get when you walk into it. And how every time you climb the stairs you can see fantails darting in the trees, close enough to reach out and touch them. And how the boys open their bedroom curtains every morning to one of the most stunning views anyone could wish for. They can see for miles, across the lake to Huntly Power Station in one direction and the Bombay Hills in the other.

'Wow - you're really going to miss this place', said one agent as we stood admiring the view for what seemed like the twentieth time. 'This is a true family home', another said, taking in all the evidence of 'lived-in-ness'. I wanted to say 'Oi, look here! You're supposed to be chomping at the bit to sell my house, not playing on my heartstrings! Think of the commission!' But they were right; it WAS going to be very hard to leave.

They went on their merry way and promised to be in touch. I received their report yesterday. In seven years, our SS style improvements have increased our home's value by $225,000. They were actually rather apologetic and said it should be much more, but due to the recession they had to come up with a realistic sale price if we actually wanted it to sell in the current economic climate. They showed me pages of other homes in the area which had higher asking prices and simply didn't sell, they had been on the market for ages. So there was another dilemma. It was fantastic that we had more than doubled our home's value - but did we really want to sell it for a song? Did we really want someone else to benefit so easily from all our years of toil? If only Noel was here!

I just seem to be going round and round in circles, thinking of the pros and cons. The thought of a smaller house is very appealing. Easier to keep warm and certainly easier to clean. Less room for clutter - although after our mammoth decluttering session this one is also much easier to clean too! I like to think that if we move to Whangamata we will have more time together as a family. We are just about to take on two new land leases, which will give us a total of 100 acres to farm. Noel will be in his element and I was all for it at first but now I'm a bit worried we'll never see him! There is just as much to do on 100 acres as there is on a full sized farm and having a full time job too, I have visions of him coming home from work and going straight out again to do fencing, spraying, stock work or whatever. Yeah, I know I could go too and help out like in the old days but to be honest I'd never get the time. Every spare moment I get is spent cleaning this massive house!

But massive or not, living here is so peaceful. There are just four houses down our road and we're all a respectful distance from each other. I honestly don't know how we would cope having neighbours just across the fence. What if they were noisy? Or horrible? And what about the dogs? I'm not sure how they would cope living in town. Heck, I don't even know if we're allowed to keep four dogs in town! Wherever we bought would have to be fully fenced and as Hubble can climb over seven foot high fencing at the boarding kennels, it would have to be pretty darn good fencing too.

When I think about that, I think to myself 'no, it couldn't possibly work'. But then I think about the chance of a new school for the boys. Liam is absolutely sick to death of his school and is desperate to leave. Ali has been delightfully happy at primary school but is about to join Liam in the New Year. If we were to change schools, now would be a good time to do it. The school at Whangamata is smaller, with much smaller classes, which I think would be really good for Liam especially.

And I kind of like the idea of being stuck in a little coastal town on the other side of a mountain. It's got everything you need, without the lure of The Warehouse, McDonalds and all the usual chain stores. I reckon if we did move there, we'd probably save a lot of money! Everything is within walking distance so we'd hardly need to use my car. The beach is free, the skate park is free and should I ever be well enough to run again, it's lovely and flat and Noel and I wouldn't have to kill ourselves running up endless hills. And of course there's the fishing. We could go fishing whenever we liked! That would help keep the food bill pretty low! Plus I think wherever we lived we would make a vege garden, no matter how small. The Vault is full of tips on how to do that.

If we move and sell our little patch of paradise, we'll never get it back and we'll never be able to afford anything like it again. But I don't think there'll ever be another opportunity to live in Whangamata either...

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