Most of our marriage has been about me pursuing my goals, though over the years we did talk (sometimes very heatedly) about what the future would look like when it was "her turn." And I promised her many, many times that someday it would, indeed, be "her turn." So when I got laid off in 2008, and after a few months it became evident that the economy wasn't going to let me go out and "get another job" as I'd always been able to do in the past, we began exploring all those fantasies about what our future life might look like that we'd played with over the years.
It was a fluke that we hit upon the idea of running a Bed & Breakfast. Julie's aunt and uncle had run one for a few years in North Carolina, and we'd toyed with the idea of having one as a "stepdown" to retirement, but in the constellation of our retirement fantasies, it didn't really stand out among all the others. But on the way home from spending one of our unemployed weekends at the family cabin in the mountains, we drove past a motel overlooking the Continental Divide that we'd always joked about looking into buying if it ever came on the market.
Low and behold, there was a For Sale sign out front. We wrote down the number, called the listing agent, and a few days later, had a showing. We really liked the place, but as we were debriefing afterwards in a little roadhouse we were fond of, it became clear that, if we were going to follow the innkeeping path, we would have to acquire some skills and knowledge we didn't currently possess. Low and behold, in the lobby of the roadhouse was a Denver Free University catalog and one of the courses offered was, you guessed it, "So You Want To Own a B&B."
Long story short, we took the class, and the teachers, Becky and Roxanne, became our real estate brokers, and they ultimately negotiated the sale of the High Mountain Lodge for us.
But lordy, did we drag them through a few knotholes before we bought the place. As we began looking for an inn to buy, we began to clarify what we wanted. "Where will we put our books?" was one of our early mantras. "You have too many books," Roxanne told me. "Get rid of them. They clutter up the owner's quarters, and potential buyers have trouble imagining their own stuff there."
"We haven't even bought a place yet, and already you're working on helping us sell it?"
She narrowed her eyes. "It's never too early to plan."
Then after they started filtering our searches for books, we saw a place we really liked. "But where will we put the piano?" Julie asked.
"What piano?" asked Roxanne through gritted teeth.
"Oh, the 7-foot antique Steinway in the parlor," said Julie.
Roxanne muttered something, but I didn't catch what she said.
Then we saw the High Mountain Lodge. "Oh, Tom!" Julie exclaimed. "Look at those pastures! There's even a place for the horses!"
"What horses?" Roxanne demanded shrilly, the pitch of her voice inching upward. "You don't have horses! Do you?" Becky tried to shush her.
"Not yet," said Julie sweetly.
It was then that I realized that Julie's "turn," so long postponed, was about to take place.
The first year at the Lodge, we didn't have a moment to spare to think about acquiring a horse. We were too busy cleaning and decorating and cleaning some more, all the while figuring out how to be innkeepers and welcome the wonderful people who began to visit the lodge.
Then earlier this summer, it became clear that we weren't going to have time to do the prep work to get a horse; we didn't have time to get the fences in order, and it was clear that horses would have to wait another year.
That was before our neighbor approached us a few weeks ago and offered to give us a 3-year-old Rocky Mountain Horse mare named Suede. I almost fell out of my chair, I was so surprised. Suede has a club foot and so, though she is from champion bloodlines that helped establish the breed, she can't be shown and shouldn't be bred. But she's a sweet little girl, and she now belongs to Julie.
Julie is overjoyed and is busy plotting how we can get our son and his 20-something friends up to help us with a fence-building party sometime before the snow flies. "I knew God was going to give me a horse," she noted. "I just didn't know when or what kind of horse it was going to be.
So now, we know.