When we first bought our house, the lot just below ours was vacant. But less than a year after our closing, bulldozers moved in to level the land.
Construction on a new property began soon afterward.
We were beside ourselves. Our neighborhood was so incredibly settled, it simply hadn’t occurred to us that someone would build a new house near ours.
And on such a small lot.
Jane asked around and learned that the builder was Hal Johnson, a successful contractor from New England who had moved to Vieques with his wife twenty years earlier for a change of pace. He was building the house for his sister and her husband, who lived in Easton, Maryland, just across the Bay Bridge from D.C.
Jane pointed out that we were “neighbors times two,” but somehow this fun factoid didn’t make us feel any better.
As we watched the house take shape, we rotated through all the various stages of grief, although I must say we lingered particularly long over the anger and denial phases, with a protracted wallow in the depression category for good measure.
“What if it’s horrible?” I wailed.
“What if it’s huge?” This was Michael.
“How can it be huge on such a small lot?”
“Can you say ‘McMansion’?” he retorted. “Think Chevy Chase with palm trees.”
Every time we went down for a visit they seemed to have added another story. It was Buckingham Palace on steroids! Our ocean view was history!
We drank heavily…
…though we tried to focus on happy thoughts.
It could be worse, we told ourselves.
And then about eight months after construction began, the house was suddenly finished (which, by the way, was the surest indication that the owner was a blood relation of the contractor—otherwise, it would’ve taken years).
And it wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, we kind of liked it.
Built in a classic West Indies style, the house was two stories tall (okay, so the Buckingham Palace reference was a little over the top).
The whole living space—great room, two bedrooms and a bath—was on the upper story, with a broad wooden veranda opening out of the great room to take advantage of the fantastic ocean views. The lower level, which obviously existed simply to raise up the top floor, consisted of little more than a laundry room and carport.
They painted the house butter yellow and put a bluish-green tin roof on top.
We liked the sound of rain hitting the roof.
All was well.
And when we finally met the owners we liked them a lot.
But that was a while later.
I’ll tell you about that another time.