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When Home is Someplace Other Than Expected

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By Bill Primavera

As I write this piece, I have just returned from a fundraising event in which my adult daughter was deeply involved: an initiative to feed the hungry of her community.

While sitting enjoying the food and the company of a highly diverse group, I looked around and wondered in amazement how I, an inveterate “city boy,” ever could have ended up in that suburban location. It was not planned or anticipated.

I grew up in the South in a suburban community, but from the time I was 10 years old when I accompanied my parents to New York City for a summer in which my father had an assignment there, my ultimate objective was to live and work in that big city.

I did exactly that for 10 years, from the week after I graduated college. I entered the communications business with my first job as a trade magazine reporter, then editor. While there, I discovered the discipline of public relations through its agents seeking client placement in the publication for which I worked, and I was fascinated by it. I applied for a job with a firm offering public relations services and got it, thereby changing the trajectory of my career.

But later, in the late 1970s, there was a cataclysmic event in the communications business in New York – a newspaper strike that put many communicators out on the street and jobs in the field were hard to come by. Besides that, being somewhat feisty and independent as an employee, occasionally making it difficult for my early bosses to accommodate my individualistic kind of ideas, I lost a job or two.

But I’ll say this for myself: I always landed on my feet. One such instance was being out of work when applying for the job of public relations and development director of the Culinary Institute of America. It was a great slot, but required my leaving my beloved New York City in order to work at its location in Hyde Park in Dutchess County.

I couldn’t find it in my heart to move two hours away from Manhattan, but I did compromise and moved exactly in between – one hour from the city and one hour from work. I simply looked at a map and placed a pin between the two locations and landed in Yorktown Heights in northern Westchester.

As providence would have it, I also looked at classified ads in The New York Times for colonial homes, my bent since having attended the second oldest college in America, William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Lo and behold, I found one that was located in exactly the town where my pin had landed. How coincidental was that?

My wife and I, with our three-and-a-half-year-old daughter in tow, visited that home, which had been built in 1734, enlarged in 1797 and added on to again in 1861, as my research indicated. I was not in any way a “home guru” at that time, or I would have recognized all the vagaries that might be encountered in an antique home. From our first weekend in residence when it rained and the roof leaked, it was a matter of constant upkeep and repair to keep the place going. It was a few years before I acquired the knowledge and skills to upgrade and maintain the place.

At first, I thought I might perish away from the buzz of the big city. I remember that we were kept awake most of our first night from the hum outside of katydids – crickets – and I got really depressed when we ventured out for our first meal outside the home and found little more in our town at that time than the local McDonald’s.

But gradually, we began making friends with neighbors on our street, then broadened our reach to the community and became involved in its social and governmental activities. Early on I volunteered for our town’s Advisory Board on Architecture & Community Appearance, for which I still serve, and my wife worked for the chamber of commerce. After a while, we became so busy in our new surroundings that they were no longer new and we settled into the comfort of feeling at home. Really at home, where we were planted.

So now this city boy is a certified country bumpkin who has learned that the concept of home can be quite different than what was originally planned. It’s just a matter of adapting to what the vagaries of life place before you and keeping an open mind.

Bill Primavera is a residential and commercial realtor associated with William Raveis Realty, as well as a publicist and journalist writing regularly as The Home Guru. For questions about home maintenance or to buy or sell a home, he can be e-mailed at williamjprimavera@gmail.com or called directly at 914-522-2076.

 

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