Thirty-two years ago this month I graduated college and moved to Waterville Valley with my best friend. Thirty-one years ago today, I married said best friend, Harry Stearns. We figured we’d spend a couple of years in Waterville Valley as Harry finished college and coached soccer at Plymouth State, and I got some real world work experience under my belt. Then, we figured, we’d move on to bigger and better things.
Our first Waterville Valley “home” was a house on Jennings Peak Road that we shared with one of my co-workers and her best friend. As newlyweds, we figured it was time to have our own place, so we moved into a three room apartment above the garages in a house on West Branch Road. Our landlords were Joan and Ace Eaton who were like another set of parents to us. We shared meals with the Eatons, got advice from the Eatons, received our first set of Christmas tree ornaments from the Eatons (which still hold a place of honor on our holiday tree to this day), and we watched them raise two exceptional children.
Then we met Fred Rust, a long-time Waterville Valley resident who had purchased a large tract of farm land in Thornton and subdivided it into 1- and 2-acre home sites – the ‘burbs of Waterville Valley. One day Fred said to Harry, “Where are you and Jan going to live? You can’t stay at the Eatons forever. Why don’t you take a look at some lots in Sugar Run?” We did the tour with Fred. We found the perfect lot with a building site perched on a hill with a brook and old stonewall. Then, we took a deep breath as we emptied our savings and gave Fred a $500 down payment. He said, “Pay me whatever you can, whenever you can.” We were land owners!
One night as we sat in the bar at the William Tell, Harry doodled a house on a cocktail napkin. “What do you think?” he asked me. “Do you think we can afford to build a house,” I asked him. “Why not?” he shrugged his shoulders.
Some months later I sat on the back of a pick-up truck watching a chainsaw-wielding Harry clear the land for our little house. A friend warned us, “You know what comes along with that first load of lumber, dontcha? A baby.”
After much blood, sweat and tears, we had our own little house! Soon after moving in, we welcomed our first born – a German Shepherd named Kylie. But, our friend was right. It wasn’t long after that first load of lumber was delivered that we also delivered our first born child, a son, Tyler. Three years later, Tyler was joined by our daughter, Jenna.
Thirty-one years later, we’re still here, but we no longer dream of moving on to bigger and better things. From our house, to our community, to our jobs – we realized that smaller is better. No, I take that back. Smaller is best.
So, it’s not only a happy anniversary of the day I married my best friend and life partner, it’s a happy anniversary of our life in Waterville Valley.