Years ago I nearly ended my "best friend" status on the spot with my childhood pal, Heidi B., when she loudly announced upon leaving the movie theatre: "That was stupid; I don't get it . . ." Heidi and I had just seen Steven Spielberg's movie, "E.T., The Extra Terrestrial" and I had almost (almost) choked up and cried (something I try never do at the movies as it embarrasses the hell out of me). Can I just state for the record that NOT getting E.T. is akin to NOT getting the "Wizard of OZ?"
C'mon, who's heart didn't melt in the last scene when E.T's finger lights up at Elliott's temple and he says, "I'll be right here," while Elliot pleads for E.T. to stay; big fat tears running down his cheeks? (Evidentially, Heidi's heart was unmoved.)
Clearly, we were at a crossroads in our thinking.
Even then, the concept of "home" was near and dear to me.
I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "home" the past several months; about the many different manifestations of "home," and about transitions in general. Gone are the days, when your parents bought a house, had a few kids (or three, or four, or five, or six . . .) adopted a dog and cat, added on a room, converted the garage, and grew old in the house as the house slowly began to grow old around them. Yeah, that flocked, metallic wallpaper didn't really stand the test of time . . .
Today's world - and the concept of "family" in general - has expanded to include all walks of life and from where I sit, that's the way it should be. From newly single, to newly engaged, the reasons for buying and selling are as varied as the buyers themselves. Welcome to the world of homeownership (and all that it entails). Whatever the change; no matter how welcome, or necessary, it doesn't necessarily make the transitions any easier. In my own immediate family, the year has been ripe with tremendous change, beginning with my parents who sold their much-loved condominium in downtown Sonoma earlier this spring.
Now in their eighties and with a few significant surgeries behind them, the steep flight of stairs were becoming unmanageable and the large garden my mother lovingly tended, represented more work than pleasure. While slightly conflicted, they were ready to let go and spend their weekends taking road trips - not weeding.
Truth be told, an uncomplicated life makes very good sense for my folks at this stage of the game. (Truth be told, an 'uncomplicated life' probably makes good sense for us ALL at ANY stage of the game. Good luck with that.) Ditto for Cliff and me, who seized an opportunity to sell in order to move to another opportunity (and then another). Two home moves in three months may have been pushing it a little, but as my sister, Jill, remarked, "I don't think you do 'easy'." Sigh, she's probably right.
And speaking of Jill . . . she too, has made a recent change, selling her lovely East Sacramento home and transitioning back to the Bay Area after a 20 year absence. She now resides in an industrial loft in trendy Jack London Square that's sitting nearly empty while she waits for her house to close so she can move some of her belongings and actually have a sofa on which to sit and a bed in which to sleep. Won't that be a relief? (Yes, it will.)
The BIGGEST transition however, awaits my mother-in-law, Zee, whom, after careful consideration, will move into an "Assisted Living Community" tomorrow with the help of her supportive and loving family. In her case, she's not just giving up her home, she's giving up her independence and the life she's so carefully constructed these past 40 years.
It's a lot to ask of a woman who's prided herself on her independence and ability to hold her own. At our suggestion, prodding, pleading, and insistence we want her to focus on her health and we think she's earned the right to live worry-free for a change. It hasn't been easy. (No one expects it to be easy.) What Zee wants and what she needs are not entirely compatible and that's the conflict as we age, but she's firmly on board and that's at least half the battle. She's due an unencumbered life after so many years.
In my practice, I've had the honor and the pleasure of watching doting grandparents move closer to their grandchildren, expecting parents move up to accommodate a new arrival, transplanting families move across country for work, empty-nesters forge a new path, and senior citizens fall in love and remarry, AND I've encouraged bold young families to take off for the unknown - and that's just this year alone . . .
"Julie, we're thinking of moving to Europe!"
"Good for you. Do it! "
I've watched Buyers and Sellers move up, move down, blend families, separate, buy for the very first time and give up home ownership altogether. I've seen them trade homes for condos with views, stairs for all-level living, and space for simplicity and ease. The point is, beyond basic shelter, a home should serve our needs first and foremost. When it doesn't, change is in order and entirely appropriate. If I've learned anything at all, it's that "home is where the heart is." I didn't make up that tried and true adage, but it sure fits.
Whether you relate to "There's no place like home," or to "E.T. PHONE HOME!" Dorothy and E.T. both "got" it, my folks "got" it, Zee is "getting" it, and I like to believe that Heidi "got" a sense of 'home' along the way. Wherever she landed, I'm wishing her well. Hey, "I'll be right here," whenever you decide to move on.
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.