Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Goodbye Townhome......A Christmas Story


                  My parents divorced after many years of marriage, when I was 24. I can only imagine the loss a young child feels in divorce because this was a saddening and traumatic time for me, even though I was already a young married myself, and pregnant, to boot.  My mother was a British subject and had moved here when she married an American.  Even though she lived most of her life here, she related that, after the divorce, she felt a bit as if she had been stranded in a foreign land.

                        This left my parents living in two cities.  My father seemed to fare better, at least initially, but my mother had a difficult time.  Her children were raised and she'd left a good career before we were born.  It was very difficult for her to define herself and be an individual in a sea of couples. She also wasn't emotionally ready to once again, secure employment.

                        After I too moved out of state with my husband and small children, she wondered if she should do the same.  Winters in the Northeast were difficult, and perhaps an apartment in the South would be easier.   Within a year of my husband and I moving to Virginia, my mother followed, moving her things into storage, and at least initially, staying with us, in the new home we'd bought.   She needed encouragement to either rent something herself or to buy and so ultimately I pressed her to find something.  The choices were much better than in the Northeast.  She could have bought a quite lovely three bedroom home with a nice yard only about four miles from me, and she could even have assumed a preexisting mortgage which was at a reasonable rate.   I found several things that I believed would be excellent and nearby, but she had no interest in any of them.  Eventually, she announced that she had bought something.  She was true to her British heritage in that she had bought a home in a row house townhome community in a  more urban area than the one in which I lived.  Superficially, the building did remind me of some of the suburban housing in some of London's suburbs, perhaps Ruislip, but that is where the comparison ended.  My own personal prejudice is that I would always prefer to own something which is not connected or overly dependent upon someone elses property.  It is my belief that in a townhouse community, you are more vulnerable to potential bad behavior by your neighbors or poor maintenance of their homes. Your investment depends in part on your neighbors and this makes you vulnerable.  The home was also forty-five minutes from my home, and this would cut down on how often we would see one another.  It did have three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, and nice sized kitchen, living and dining rooms, along with some of the best storage I have seen in a townhome, and it had attached storage. It also had easy proximity to the interstate, and in one or two exits, an international airport, which I believe she saw as a giant plus.

                         I don't think I ever had a chance to tell her this but I am proud of the way she redefined herself by building a new career.   After a series of jobs that paid well but that she absolutely hated, she found a job as a researcher and docent at a museum.  Her natural intelligence, great memory for facts, figures and her love of  history stood her in good stead.  She also liked meeting people, and was very good with dignitaries. She continued in that position making many friends as a consequence of the position until her passing, in her eighties.  Physically, at least, up to that time, she looked well, and appeared much younger than she actually was.

                  My mother had a Will in which I was the executrix for many years. My family and I moved to another part of the state when our four children got  older, but I retained a copy of this Will.  However, in the last year of her life, she forgot this existed, and someone at work drew a new one.

                    As a result of the new Will, her home was left to my brother who lived out of state, and was often out of the country. For a time,he did not know he owned it, and she did not have reliable means by which to contact him and neither apparently, did her executrix. The monthly fees to the townhouse began to climb and to accrue, along with utility bills, taxes, and homeowner's insurance and my attorneys instructed me, that since I was not her executrix that I was not to pay them.

                    Eventually my brother was reached.  He not only didn't want any part of the home, but could not come to sell it, and absolutely could not pay the thousands of dollars in back fees on the home which was now "magically his". He could not make use of the home she had kept and planned to give to him.  I decided, in order to help my brother, and in order to go through our family pictures and things which I presumed were in her home, that I would buy it from my brother, and then sell it fairly quickly thereafter.  My brother was happy to be finished with it.  He turned up for the closing, and was gone again fairly quickly.  Then of course, the financial and real estate collapse of 2008 occurred, and there were some terrible family losses to me personally as well.  Both my Dad, and Daniel passed, and having work done on my mother's home, in order to sell it wasn't on my list of top priorities.

                    Then, since two of my children were at the university about a half hour from the home, I kept it thinking that they might wish to live there and rent out one room for the income while in college.  They never did.    In addition, the family photos and the special momentos my mother had been holding for me for years, were not found in the home.

                   For five years I held on to the house I never liked and never thought she should have bought.  I have privately joked to my husband that it is the purchase that keeps on taking, and that the address really  ought to be Albatross Lane. For much of this time, the home had been up for sale, but with the economic downturn, and so many foreclosures throughout the US, there were no takers, and often no one who looked for a long period of time.   Then, last year I found a tape of a Christmas spent at her home, when her sister, my beloved aunt,  flew in from England.   It showed them,  my husband and I, and our children, and it some wonderful footage of Daniel when he was less than a year.  This was a tape of Daniel's first Christmas, a part of which he spent at my mother's townhome.  It looked so beautiful inside with the pale yellow living room,  blue and white vases filled with holly, and a five foot tree draped in gold and blue. There were lots of noisy toys that Daniel adored.   My mother is now gone, as is her sister, and so is my little Daniel.  They are all gone, but the townhouse holds the memory of that Christmas, and of our time spent together, on that magical day.  It now sits alone with new carpet and curtains, having not heard children's laughter in years.

                 Last month I had that tape copied onto several DVDs so that we will always have those memories.  I think the house served my mother well.  She paid off its mortgage within a few years and its reasonable cost allowed her to do things she wished to.    My mother's home finally sold at a great loss, last month, and the closing is in just a few days.  The costs of acquisition coupled with the taxes, fees, maintenance costs, repairs, and association fees have very much exceeded what I will get for it.  However, I think I did the right thing.   It's a nice home with three bedrooms in a central location, and it will be a good home to its next owner. Sometimes, all we can do is the best we can.  I am a little sad to see it go.


  1. Thank you for sharing this story.
    So glad you found the movie of your son at such a young age...memories are things people cannot steal from us. May you find peace in the sale of this home and hopefully it is going to be someone who will be happy in it!

    1. Thank you ! Yes, I think there is already peace in it. It was the right purchaser and it was time for the home to begin a new life. I will always treasure the movie we made that day. Interestingly, from the time we made it, we never once watched it. Life when Daniel was here was too busy and too full to look back. Now, we are finding some of the remnants of memories made.
      Merry Christmas to you and to yours,

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Duplicate post deleted. Sometimes, there are blogger hiccoughs !

  3. I wonder who took your pictures and mementos. I am thinking she shared that she had them and someone took them when she died or before. People who "help" the elderly often have ulterior motives. There is one such person in this town who is shameless about befriending the elderly, hauling them about, and then complaining about his truck if he wants the old fellow's truck. The next person may have a fine freezer he wants. He smiles and hints and never leaves them lonely until he gets the one thing he wants. Then, he abandoned the old person who could not remember what happened to the freezer. I really hate you lost your pictures but thrilled that you found the video.

    This is how my ex built up a fine collection of very old, gold coins, befriending old women in the churches at which he ministered.

  4. To make this a fundamentally happy Christmas post about memories coming from unlikely places, I left that out. You are absolutely correct. Friends of my mother who "helped her rewrite her Will" when an original existed, also helped her liquidate anything of any value, including her car. A number of heirlooms and photographs are simply gone, including a large sum of money I know she inherited from her sister, because I was a part of that particular transaction. There are people who are predators who "help" the elderly. At the end of her life, as my mother's vascular dementia progressed, she was calling someone else her "daughter" and she did not remember my brother or I. Although this is hurtful, legal means should be taken in protection of assets when such things occur. I will never get all of my childhood pictures back, however my aunt made sure that I got all of the pictures of us that she had.

  5. Nice Coverage Thanks Alexandra .

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