This is the house that I looked at, with the white picket fence, a farmhouse from 1880 shouldering up next to an apartment building built in the 1930’s. Is it true that home ownership is a right, or that it makes you a better citizen?
I have always been without a place to call my home; my parents were housed through jobs, first the parsonage and then the halfway house they ran. When my father ran, away, he went homeless, calling late at night from dives on the bowery. When he moved back to Scotland he moved in with his older sisters. That’s when my mother became a dorm director at the private school I attended. My last home, studied internally by how and where I lived there.
I never lived in a shelter or lacked anything, really. A privileged life, in so many ways. But an odd life, shined on by education and formed through instability.
There is something about a home.
My mother’s house is under contract, and I feel that she would want me to spend that money on a house. I happen to like this one, and I happen to feel that I would be a good owner of it. I CAN afford it, this foreclosed property. I CAN make it beautiful.
I have looked at a few houses, at this point, but this is my first foreclosure tour. I cried when we opened the door.
The curved banister and the carved woodwork around the fireplace are intact. As are the children’s toys and so much stuff, too many things that prove a family and a life well lived. The windows have been carefully replaced, one by one, except for the few that still show the careful scraping to fit a new window. The walls are spackled and primed. There’s an unopened bottle of wine on the counter, next to a gallon of margarita mix. The stove and fridge are gone.
There are boxes, everywhere, half filled with detritus from a life or lives. They literally fled, I think.
Upstairs, towels on the floor of the bathroom. Shirts hanging, neatly in a row, in a closet. May I repeat that: shirts, each hanger facing the same way, hanging in a closet. How can I possibly buy your clothing, your dreams, your childrens toys?
It’s like a war happened, and they were forced to flee. And I think that is what happened – that a war on people has happened and is happening, and that this family is a victim. And I am too, but I have, maybe, MAYBE, the chance to buy it all.
The neighborhood is “dicey”. Or “fringe”, according to how you term gentrification. I guess I might be a sign of gentrification as opposed to, well, someone tearing the house down. Was this previous family gentrifying? Absolutely. They loved this little ghetto farmhouse. I wonder if my race would be significant if I get this house, or perhaps my credibility could be established by growing up – in the halfway house – three blocks North. I wonder if my neighbors will like me; I wonder if they see me, entering the house, as a rat or a mole, working with the bank that chased a family away. I naively said “Hi!” to everyone as I waited for my realtor to show up. Thinking, well, maybe it’s a friendly neighborhood. Who knows? Probably people don’t care that I want to plant cosmos and have a vegetable garden and participate in the community. Probably, people just want to keep themselves stable. Not out here to make friends. But maybe someone knew the family.
In the attic there’s a little room. There’s a bunch of photos and a cell phone, a flip phone, left open among the pictures. On the floor. I look down and see everything. There’s a box filled with kites. What happened?
Who leaves photo albums and pictures and clothing and furniture and wine and boxes, half filled, some empty and just so much stuff? People who are chased out of their homes – like people in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am witnessing the effects of a war. And I have no more control over it, besides voting and my limited and admittedly lame activism, than anyone except the fucking banks. The corporate interests. How did this happen?
Chances are the bank won’t even approve of me, with my 20% down. With a foreclosed property you have to deal with the actual bank, and since this one does not even have an actual address in the whole United States, I am dealing with a predatory lender.
Oh my God, I want to open the doors and let them back in, to let them take back their things. Is that possible? If it is, that is what I would do.
Chances are I won’t get this house, and chances are my small windfall (which I would happily return in exchange for my Mother) will lead me to other tours of foreclosed properties. Each one a story of something terrible, and terribly wrong, that happens every day.