Last night the boys and I grabbed an ice cream treat on our way home from their day camp. As we pulled into the driveway we found a woman inspecting the outside of our house. I knew immediately why she was there. After three years in foreclosure, the bank had finally sold our home at auction.
She began approaching me as I got out of our car. Then she saw the boys, stopped, and suggested I send them inside before she continued. I am grateful she waited until they were at a safe distance before she began threatening me with eviction. They know too much already at their ages.
I knew this day would come eventually. The separation and divorce wiped us out financially. We had been unable to pay the mortgage for quite a while. Instead, we paid lawyers.
I didn’t cry, I didn’t curse at her, nor did I panic. For once I managed to get through an excruciating exchange gracefully. As my therapist says, I regulated my emotions and it was a huge win for me. Anyway, she isn’t responsible for my predicament. She is simply trying to make a living.
I once loved watching those television shows featuring eager investors who race to transform dilapidated homes into fabulous new creations for generous profit. It never occurred to me that each house flipped had a previous owner, possibly a family not so unlike my own who has faced a tragedy of one kind or another. My perspective is constantly shifting with every new obstacle; this was no exception.
Substance abuse, unemployment, divorce, bankruptcy, and foreclosure—my family has been through much. Police officers and Child Protective Services have knocked at my door more times than I can count. I have been criticized by insensitive, powerful white men in courtrooms and I have felt utterly alone at times trying to keep my children and I afloat. I have also chronicled my experiences here in an effort to help myself, as well as others who are wading through similar shit storms. By bringing the events to light I feel free.
What keeps me going and gives me hope, aside from my children, are the simple acts of kindness that have also come our way. Yes, there are those who profit from others’ misfortunes, but there are also really good, kind people in this world. In the current climate it is easy to forget.
I met one recently while trying to find a bunk bed for the kid’s room for our future rental. She was the manager of a popular furniture store. I was filthy and exhausted from packing and I was missing my kids while they were away with their father. In a word, I was overwhelmed. This stranger hugged me, told me that she had been there too, and assured me that this move would be the new beginning I needed. As if that were not enough, she gave me a new bedspread for my room, which she carried to my car before hugging me one last time.
And there have been so many others like that store manager. My dear friend and neighbor has regularly blessed and fed my children at her Shabbat table as if they were her own. There is my co-worker who often brings me breakfast because I do not take time for self-care. There is the blogger who sent me flowers on Mother’s Day because she knew no one else would. There is also the classmate from high school, who I hadn’t heard from in two decades, who sent a beautiful, hand-written letter of support after reading my posts online. These are just a few examples. My gratitude list grows daily.
This morning on our drive to camp, I asked the boys to help me make another list—this one comprised of some of their happiest memories in the house. Their responses renewed my strength. Of course they loved movie night with all of us squeezed together eating popcorn in my bed. Playing baseball in the yard with the neighbors was also a highlight over the years. Finally, there was the last minute celebration I threw together on their 7th birthday. Despite having spent a small fortune renting venues for all previous birthdays, it was this pizza dinner and evening spent playing board games with only a few close friends in our living room that they enjoyed the most, ironically.
It is just a house, after all. As long as we always focus on the good, we will be fine wherever this journey leads.