I know a woman who bought a house when the leaves were green and the birdies were singing. The house is on a hill. A steep hill.
Yes, admire the view. Yes, extol the beauty of seeing the rain cross the valley and dampen the bluebells.
Yes, admire the view. Yes, extol the beauty of the snow as it gently blankets the valley below, and the neighbors below who live on the flats, and the driveway. No, wait! It’s snowing on my driveway? How did that happen? How the hell am I going to get out of here?
Remember the fun and excitement of finding the perfect house? Who cares if the driveway looks like a black diamond ski trail. All it requires is a little bit of elbow grease to shovel. It will be great family exercise!
It’s summer and winter is months away. What can go wrong on a sunny summer day? Where do I sign the papers?
Someplace between love’s first blush and over two feet of snow and ice is a lot of space for regret.
This is how the story goes: first, you buy the house on the hill then you call everyone you know to come over for a cookout and a general admiration session.
Next comes the brilliant autumn and you take a million pictures to decorate your office and amaze your friends. Lovely! I love this house.
Hold on! There’s more. After the autumn comes the Dastardly Northeast Winter. Now you arrive at the office in a foul mood, without any pictures and with two hours of sleep, because you got up at 3 a.m. to shovel a path down the friggin’ driveway. No, wait! IS that the driveway? I can’t see a damn thing in the dark with all this goddam snow. I think I’m shoveling the lawn. Where’s the car? Somebody get out here and help me. It’s too damn steep for the snowblower. Where’s that snowplow guy? Who the hell talked me into buying this dump? I hate this house.
But it gets better. That was snow. Now that nothing but ice came raining down the other day, the driveway is a, what’s the term?, “sheet of ice.” That was smart, the car got parked up top and the only way down is spinning down…and across the road…and onto the neighbor’s lawn crushing the mailbox and smashing the right front quarter panel of your car. Why not.
Is winter over yet? Can I park at the bottom of the driveway? Great, I have to claw my way up the driveway or break ice on the lawn as I scale the summit to the house. Why, God, why?
And who’s that on the phone? The Town? They’re gonna what!? Tow the car if we don’t get it off the road ’cause the plow can’t turn around! What plow? I never saw a plow.
The joys of buying a house in the country on a hill.
Don’t get me wrong: life in the country is terrific. But you get more than you bargain for if you decide to buy on a hill. Where I come from, where the snow gets about 120″ in a good winter, we used to save those properties for the “flatlanders” who wanted a view.
Next to selling out-of-staters old houses with no sills and uninsulated pipes running about a foot off the ground in an unheated cellar, the house on the hill trick was just about the best. It was a tribute to human ingenuity to see how many ways folks could try to make a go of getting home at night with the groceries. There were snowmobiles, sleds, snowshoes, hoofing it, frog marching the kids up the hill with the groceries and dragging stuff behind you as you cursed and swore your way up the mountainside of a driveway.
It’s a scientific fact that the vertical driveway gets steeper in proportion to the amount of snow and ice. Sort of like silly taffy. But not so funny.
None of it was worth it after a few years.
There’s a reason houses on hills stay on the market for a longer time. If you think a few seasons ahead, you eventually get to the problem of winter. And if you don’t have that black diamond driveway sealed, you also get the fun of spring run off and your very own hubcap sucking mud season, an axle buster if there ever was one.
How do I know all of this? My lips are sealed.