Selling our childhood home

December 07, 2008|By KATE COLEMAN

My sister Patti e-mailed me a few weeks ago: "Well, it's hard to believe, but the closing is tomorrow."

She was referring to the signing of papers, the transfer of ownership - the sale of our childhood home.

My reply: "Hooray!"

Then I typed, "So why am I crying?"

Of course, we feel extremely lucky to sell a house in the current tough real-estate market.

Reality demanded that we lower the original asking price, but the house was listed only four months, and we did all right. We settled on a figure way more than the $17,000 it cost my parents to build the house. My parents never could have imagined such a price in 1955.

I make it sound easy.

It was easy for me - 4 1/2 hours away in Maryland, where I've lived since 1973.

My sisters, twins Patti and Eena, have made lives close to home. Dad died in 1988, but Mom thrived alone for several years. As advancing age and failing health challenged her, my siblings - with school-age kids and demanding teaching careers - took incredible care of her: grocery shopping, laundry, house cleaning, checking in at least once every single day. They picked up the pace and intensity of their care giving when she faded and died last fall at age 89.


Whenever I'd apologize for being so useless and far away, they'd offer reassurance: "Nobody's keeping score."

Then they turned their amazing energies to readying the house for sale.

The papers were signed exactly 53 years and three days after our family moved from a two-story duplex in a veterans' apartment complex a few blocks away from the beach in the town where my parents grew up.

The modest split-level house wasn't fancy, but it certainly was a 1950's American dream for my parents, children of the Great Depression.

There was a contractor, but a lot of family sweat equity went into the construction of our home. Dad had good carpentry and painting skills, and his wonderful baritone voice always accompanied his labors. His electrician brothers-in-law worked on the wiring. Another brother-in-law, a plumber, handled the waterworks and heating - insisting on extra registers so that his three nieces - "the worms" - never would be cold.

In an Irish-Italian-New Jersey version of a Mennonite barn raising, my uncles and Dad's cousins converged to create the smoothest driveway on the block. So smooth that, unable to stop while roller-skating, I once put my hand through the window of the overhead garage door at its end.

The house's location was superb. I never rode a school bus. The elementary school was a five-minute walk away; high school, 10 minutes.

The neighborhood was quiet and safe. Franklin Park Lake just down the street provided hours of ice skating, Fourth of July fireworks and a paved walkway for Mom and friends' morning constitutionals.

Patti sent me a follow-up e-mail a couple of days later to tell me that all had gone smoothly and the deal was done.

The night before closing, she and Eena walked around the outside of the house, "went in every room 20 times," gave the vacuum a final run and lay down on the floor of the bedroom they had shared. They reminisced.

My sisters left a welcoming bottle of wine and some cookies for the family whose home our home will be. They also wrote a"sappy little note" about making wonderful memories - as we had living there.

I join them in their good wishes for the new family.

Our closing is an opening for them.

Kate Coleman covers the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and writes a monthly column for The Herald-Mail.

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