Tag Archives: place

To be a Paige: place and people of kin

I am a member of a family that has coalesced around one name, Paige. No matter that many of us were born with non-Paige surnames – we all consider ourselves Paiges. (We’re like the Kennedys — except for the Irish Catholic part, the political dynasty part, the dogged-by-tragedy part… oh, and the money. If you’re a Joe Kennedy descendant you’re a Kennedy, even if your name is something like Schriver.)

Right now I’m paying my annual pilgrimage to our family home, Pine Haven, on Cape Cod. My great-grandfather Timothy Paige bought Pine Haven in 1911 as a summer home when he came into some money from his uncle who had earned a bundle during the California Gold Rush selling pickaxes to the miners. Tim and the other Paiges had been farmers in central Massachusetts (Hardwick) for generations, so the inheritance was quite a shock.

Pine Haven -Paige haven since 1910

Pine Haven -Paige haven since 1911

Some of the money went for infrastructure in the village of Hardwick and some was spent on Pine Haven, the house next door to it and the house across the street. Pine Haven’s current owners are my second cousin Patty, who was born a Paige, and her husband. The house across the street also remains in the family and other cousins have bought or built homes within a block or two, so you could almost say we have a family compound – although it’s hardly grand.

Patty has taken it upon herself to organize family reunions every few years. We come from all across the country to participate and celebrate our Paigeness. We make a day trip to Hardwick to see the Paige Library, the Paige pew in the Universalist church, the modest Paige Agricultural Center, the statue of gold-rusher Calvin Paige.

Paige Library, Hardwick MA

Paige Library, Hardwick MA

About ten years ago Patty’s husband instituted a suitably fake-solemn ceremony when their daughter Paige married. With a ribbon, certificate and pompous pronouncement, he inducted the groom into the “I married a Paige” clan. Since then, whenever a member of the extended Paige family marries, their spouse is inducted at the reception, witnessed by growing numbers of the in-law clan, and cheered on by the “birth” Paiges.

So here’s the question: why am I a Paige, and not a Kimball, Bachrach or Keyes? Although my dad’s mom was the Paige, I carry equal shares of genetic material from my other three grandparents. I’m just a quarter-blood Paige by that reckoning.

But if my grandpa had been the Paige instead of my grandma, my Dad would have carried the name as a full Paige and I’d be a half-blood. If I was my dad’s son my name would still be Paige and I could also consider myself full-blood.

At each generation, the blood of one family line is diluted by each new family into which the children marry. Over time the dilution of a particular family’s genes could be considered only homeopathic in strength. And yet, if the family has sons at each generation who pass the family surname to their sons, the name continues at full strength, no matter how many generations have passed.

When does a bloodline begin then? Who is the most essential Paige, or Smith, Jones, Epstein, Kennedy?

Why am I a Paige? Because we say so. Because the Kimballs, Bachrachs, and Keyes never got their familyness acts together the way the Paiges did.

The regular gatherings of the clan and sub-groups of the clan reinforce our Paigeness. Patty’s collection of Paige photos going back more than 100 years and her unstinting hospitality to family members reinforce our Paigeness. The wedding ritual certainly celebrates Paigeness. And finally, we are blessed with a connection to Place. Pine Haven is the place we’ve been coming to for a hundred years, and there are more of us across the street and down the road. We can also go back to a village in central Massachusetts and see our name on various plaques on buildings, headstones in the graveyard.

We are literally grounded, and in today’s quickly changing world I find this solidity comforting.

the Pull of Place

While I love getting away, seeing new sights, meeting new people, I am firmly anchored at home. Home is where my heart is. Home is where I center and rejuvenate myself.

Since my ex and I separated six years ago, my home has been a 3,000 square foot house on a one-third acre lot framed by trees and nestled into a gentle slope overlooking a lake. In feng shui, this fortuitous placement is called “the belly of the dragon.”

Even though I’m just a couple of miles from downtown, and pretty close to my neighbors, it’s quiet and private. Out of every window I see something lovely.

This is the most wonderful home I’ve ever had – and people who visit are immediately enchanted by it as well. Not because it’s grand – because it is anything but (built from a plan-book in 1972). But it’s cozy, colorful and quirky.

So why did a single woman of modest means buy a house this big?

Three reasons: it was cheap (needed a lot of work), the setting was fabulous, and it was the only house I could find within my budget that had a dining room big enough for my grandmother’s dining table, and a living room large enough for my mother’s Steinway baby grand (which I’m keeping for my still-peripatetic son, 24).

The fourth reason: ohmigod the yard! All the previous owners were skillful gardeners who left behind shrubs, native plants, sheets of color from spring bulbs, rock walls, five prolific blueberry bushes, a grape arbor and an asparagus bed! A chestnut tree on the southwest corner to keep the house cool in the summer, and a couple of towering black walnut trees in my neighbor’s yard that framed my view to the northwest.

I refinanced and plowed a lot of money into remodeling. And more into simplifying the yard. If the economy and housing market hadn’t plunged, the investment might have been wise. But now the moths in my purse are looking hungry.

Walking around the yard this spring, I’m seeing not just beauty but bondage. The yard work is unending. And it’s more work than a single woman of my age wants to do.

I need to make some serious changes. My options as I see it: find a new mate (someone who loves to garden or has enough money to pay a gardener); write a best-seller and become rich enough myself to afford the gardener or; down-size.

At the moment the first two options are in the realm of fiction. That leaves me with down-sizing.

It’s so easy to be blithe about down-sizing when it’s my feng shui clients’ stuff. But the shoe is now on MY foot and it hurts. Yesterday I sat in the yard and wept just thinking about letting go of this place.

It took me months to find my home – and now I’ll be fighting the growing horde of down-sizers who are also seeking a smaller, charming home within walking distance to shops and public transportation.

I hope I can maintain some shred of equanimity during this process. For sure I’ll be a better consultant after I’ve done it myself.