‘If we can pay $500 a month for rent, we can handle a mortgage,’’ my fiancé declared in Marlborough in 1981. “We just need a down payment.’’
Our hopes were high, but the yards and houses were small and close; this wasn’t acceptable to a ham radio operator. Nearby homes meant interference with televisions and grouchy neighbors.
Steve looked while I was working and came home excited. “I found something! You might not like it, but it could be right,’’ he said. Hidden from the street, it had a dirt drive crossing a little stream. The concrete bridge was short; the tired red-shingled farmhouse backed into the woods near a neighbor’s ramshackle barn. Their grizzled sheep nosed around the yard, and geese scattered as we drove in.
The paraphernalia in the yard was incredible: old windows, lumber, and machine parts with weeds growing around it all. I pouted.
“I don’t want to get out of the car.’’
“Get out of the car,’’ he said.
The geese honked and one lowered its head to intimidate me. It worked. I ran toward the house.
The wooden walkway to the ell kept us off the mud. The place had been empty for a year, and we felt the coolness in the kitchen with its drooping ceiling. The living room had striped carpet and wood-paneled walls. The upstairs offered three small bedrooms with chipped linoleum and no doors.
The house was private with a bit of charm, but . . . “I don’t think I like this one,’’ I whispered, sad that this was all we could afford. Did it have to be so rundown and shabby? I just wanted a regular house, not some oddball hut with construction debris.
We brought our parents by later. Steve’s mother laughed, “Glad you’re young.’’ My father worried about the foundation, and my mother warned, “I don’t know if I’ll come visit if you buy this.’’
We continued searching; there were not many choices. My fiancé still liked the red house and the surrounding land, but I couldn’t commit.
But one day as we explored, we took a dirt road that approached the house from a different angle. The early autumn light glowed, and the leaves framed the barnyard and stream. The construction leftovers were gone. A chestnut horse ambled about. The whole scene had a look of yesteryear and soothing childhood books.
“Look!’’ I said, nudging him. “It doesn’t look so bad from here.’’ We sat and stared at it all.
Maybe it was the magic end-of-day lighting, our meager finances, and fatigue. “Let’s buy it,’’ I said. Even the bank was not sure and wouldn’t loan us the entire amount; the owners offered a second mortgage before we changed our minds.
We moved in, made it comfortable for the winter, and planned. We fixed the moldy ceiling, installed carpeting upstairs, and found a woodstove. The country kitchen was cozy and warm. The cats and the ham operator loved the big yard. The geese teased me in the driveway until I stomped my foot, and they knew I meant business. My mother did visit, and we had lots of family fun there. We got married in that house, sold it four years later, and doubled our money. We said our goodbyes and moved on.
June Cloutier, a retired French teacher, lives in Groton and is part of a local writing group. Send comments and a 550-word essay on your first home to Address@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.