Twelve years ago today, I felt poor.
On April 15, 2003, my then-fiance and I closed on our home. Like today, of course, it was also tax day. Self-employed at the time, my first-quarter estimated tax was due that day, too. As we climbed into sleeping bags in our empty new living room that night, I fell asleep fearful our checkbook couldn’t withstand the triple whammy, worried about this major new step into adulthood, and uncertain whether the new place would ever feel like home.
A dozen years later, I count home ownership among the most satisfying accomplishments of my adult
life. We’ve put our stamp on the place, which is satisfying. All but one room of our 1,500 square foot, 3-bedroom, 1.5 bath abode has been touched by at least a coat of paint, a carpet knife or a sledgehammer.
It’s more than home improvements, though. Most of those renovations were to accommodate new occupants: our two kids and my mom, who moved in with us temporarily during a rough period of illness. Offering her refuge under our roof was a privilege.
Home is also a standing sanctuary for our son, as an autistic person stuck in a neurotypical world. That we are able to provide that sanctuary is a point of pride. More recently, I’ve been wondering whether we’ll wind up providing home for him for longer than we originally expected. Though I don’t relish the reason that would be the case, I don’t worry about the physical implications. Though we are now double the original occupancy, our home has never felt crowded. As a foursome, the house feels like it embraces us, too. From home offices to a swing set to the perfect corner for a fish tank, we are exactly suited to each other.
For me, home ownership came after ten years of moving around in four states. I was ready to nest. We started with hosting dessert for our own rehearsal dinner. My book club. Then an annual Christmas gathering for my husband’s family. As other family members downsize or move, multiple other holiday gatherings have since gravitated our way, from Fourth of July cookouts to Thanksgiving dinner. Five years ago we hosted a summer picnic for the block in our backyard. The party gave some neighbors their first opportunity to meet each other. It’s since moved out to the street, an afternoon-long event that allows us to gather, eat, converse, create chalk art, and cruise on bikes and skateboards. We’ll spearhead the fifth annual event this Father’s Day weekend.
A home, I’ve learned, means community. Community leads to connections. And connections are a far better yardstick of richness than a checkbook.