When Jen and I were searching for a home in the Scranton area, circa 2011-12, we looked at 50 houses, at least.
Before each visit to domiciles in Scranton and Old Forge and Taylor and Throop and Dunmore and Jessup and Clarks Summit, there was a feeling of excitement. Anticipation. It's the same kind of feeling I get before a Ravens-Steelers game.
Could this be it? Could this be the big win for us?
After each visit to those domiciles in Scranton and Old Forge and Taylor and Throop and Dunmore and Jessup and Clarks Summit, there was a feeling of letdown. Depression. It's the same kind of feeling I got after an Orioles' season between 1998 and 2012.
This wasn't it. This was a disappointment.
As we search for a new home in south-central Pennsylvania, this cycle has come roaring back. Only this time, we've got two small children in tow.
The most recent, and perhaps the most depressing, was a house for sale in the village of Pen Mar, situated just on the Pennsylvania side of the Mason-Dixon Line. The hamlet is at the top of a mountain, across the state line from Pen Mar Park in Washington County, Md. It also is a few dozen feet from the Appalachian Trail.
The house, built in 1900, looks onto the Cumberland Valley from its front and second-floor porches. It has five bedrooms, two bathrooms and was completely renovated over the past six years. It also fit into our price range, which admittedly, is modest.
Jen and I knew it was too good to be true. We knew there had to be a catch. But that excitement was there as we slowly drove up Pen Mar Road.
Could this be it? Could this be our new home?
We crossed a bridge over a set of railroad tracks that once carried pleasure seekers to the area, back when the park was in its hey days as a private commercial venture, and the village was reaping the benefits of serving the visitors.
There was the house, up on the left. The side facing us made it look less attractive than the photo. Of course.
But it was when we rounded the bend — crossing the state line — to go into the alley that my hope fell. The houses next door were what seemed like inches away from the one for sale. Both were old homes broken up into apartments.
A living room couch sat on one porch.
Across the alley, in the woods, a fire pit was smoldering, surrounded by a rusting barbecue grill, dirty and broken plastic children's toys and piles of other junk that would have disgusted Fred Sanford and his son.
As we slowly started back down the mountain, I gave a gusty sigh.
We knew it was going to let us down, but the feeling still stings.
All the same, the experience gave us a chance to drive through Waynesboro, Pa., where I noticed gas was cheaper than elsewhere off Interstate 81.
So, taking advantage of another day off that I had, we drove back down the next day to get gas, then took the girls to Pen Mar Park.
We caught part of the Andy Angel Quartet, performing at the pavilion as part of Pen Mar's Jim and Fay Powers Music Series. It was warm, but there was a breeze, and the girls got the chance to play on the playground equipment.
And we spent some time at the scenic overlook and hiking a small portion of the Appalachian Trail to the Mason-Dixon Line.
And thus, another experience I haven't had in a while lifted its beautiful face: Getting outdoors and spending time with my family.
There's always hope.
|Sophie and Annabelle swing at Pen Mar Park, Md.|