I have lived in 25 places in 51 years. This does not include my two years in boarding school or my first dorm room in college. Despite the fact that I spent my first 13 years in the house I grew up in, that averages out to an average stay in each place at 2.04 years. I am not an army brat. I haven’t been evicted from any of those places (Well, actually, I was “asked to leave” my first place out of college, a lovely converted basement apartment in the home of a single mother raising two young boys, because my friend was doing bong hits with her boyfriend while I was at work.)
My 15-yr old daughter has lived in 10 different places. We aren’t running from the law or abandoning them under the cover of night. Most of those places have been pretty wonderful except for one that looked like the Bates Motel from the outside. Even though she is incredibly resilient, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt.
In the 6 years I’ve been married to my second husband we’ve lived in two houses both in 3-year chunks. Our first place was a rental in an incredible and large Victorian home. I would have gladly bought it when our landlords decided to sell but at the time we couldn’t afford it. Instead, we scrambled to find something we could afford to buy and ended up in what I consider sort of C-list house with very low ceilings, a bedroom that barely fits our bed and a choppiness to the rooms that creates a lot of wasted space. We couldn’t install our beloved ceiling fans because we would have been decapitated. My daughter brought a friend over on the night we moved in and she reached up and said, “I’ve never been able to touch a ceiling before!” My heart sank.
I have always dreamed of walking through my front door and seeing a vast open room with soaring ceilings and windows everywhere. My mother who came to this country with virtually nothing adored our house with its “cathedral ceiling” in the living room. At the time I didn’t appreciate it but I get it now. My sister lives in Arizona and has what is called a “Great Room.” I envy her her Great Room.
My husband and I have been mired in debt since we met. With employment set-backs and large child support payments we have had to rely on credit cards to help get us through. It’s quite frightening to see those numbers on paper and to watch our credit scores plunge.
Our house happens to be in one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. Houses fly off the market the second they’re listed and eager buyers submit letters accompanied by photographs of a smiling family like couples pitching themselves as potential adoptive parents. Bidding wars and what people are willing to pay over asking price are off the charts. It wasn’t lost on us that we were sitting on our only untapped asset.
My husband, who owned a house with his first wife for over 25-years has reached his threshold of brutal New England winters that require shoveling in sub-zero temperatures and mowing the lawn in sweltering heat. Two winters ago we had our ceiling cave in in three different rooms from the record weight of the snow on our roof. We had to replace our oil tank, our hot water heater and pay for miscellaneous service calls for plumbing, heating and structural issues. When you have no reserve funds to tap into for these unexpected and large expenses panic sets in. So, on a weekend less that two months ago, we decided that the only way for us to live debt-free, DEBT FREE!, was to put our house on the market and move into a rental. As my friend Carla said to me, “That is EXACTLY what Suze Orman would have told you to do.”
We were lucky that we knew of a couple who desperately wanted to move to our town and fell in love with our house right away. We didn’t need to go through the hassle of showings and Open Houses where we’d have to round up our animals and kill time for a few hours. We sold it for almost $95,000 more than what we paid for it just three years ago, and with the equity already put into it we are walking away with enough money to start living the way we’ve always wanted to and to actually start saving. The hope is that in a couple of years we can buy a weekend home in Vermont that I’ve always dreamed of.
The apartment is in a fantastic and fancy complex with a pool, a gym and an actual human who will whisk our garbage away while we sleep. The ceilings are high, the living room huge and bright. My daughter is very excited about creating her own space and I, now for the 26th time, get to design and nest in a place that I can be proud of. I will miss having windows in the bathroom and kitchen and being able to let our dogs out throughout the day into our huge backyard. I will miss the silence and privacy of a stand-alone house and a separate dining room with a table large enough to host dinner parties and Passover. I will miss the hundreds of books that now sit in storage for an indefinite period of time.
We move in less than three weeks and I have started visualizing us in our new bed in our new bedroom, assuming what will become our regular spots on the couch and our animals trying to figure out what the hell just happened. I’m not quite sure how long it will take to feel like home but I don’t doubt that it eventually will. I’ve gotten good at this, for better or worse. I’ve rolled with much bigger punches and continue to greet change head on. This change will be a good one where I can finally breathe a huge sigh of relief and fully appreciate everything that I have, and everything that I can look forward to.