Sunday, June 6, 2010

The House Across the Street

My house has a big window in the living room that looks east. In between the buildings I can see the Berkeley Hills which I find calming. Directly across the street is a lovely home with wisteria growing down the front stairs (left). I find it a source of intrigue and, recently, some sad nostalgia.

When I first moved in, almost a year ago, the neighbors in that house introduced themselves. Two school age girls, their dad and a male roommate. Their mom lived elsewhere.

We haven't talked much over the months but my "view" has made it clear that the girls live there only half time. Sometimes, during drop-off, mom and dad talked, or argued, on the sidewalk. The girls would disappear into the house. Moments like these would make me turn from the window, uncomfortable. Seeing something meant to be private. And so familiar.

Then, last month, there began a series of trucks coming to the house. Boxes and boxes of things being moved. On and off for weeks. Then, Memorial Day weekend, there was a big push. Suddenly mom, dad, roommate, kids and friends were working together to move everything out. It seemed an awkward collaboration where each was on their best behavior. Smiling extra wide.

Yesterday, bringing out the garbage, I had an opportunity to ask my neighbor if he was moving. "yes yes. I'm moving in with my girlfriend in Marin. Since the divorce, four years ago, I cannot afford this house."


Like a time warp I'm brought back two years, three then four....

We lived in a classic Berkeley bungalow. Nine hundred square feet with a finished garage I used as an office. It worked well for many years. Then there was Moses (the dog), Joseph (first born) and finally, baby Maia, It became a squeeze. We considered selling and buying a new house - and even put an (unsuccessful) offer on one. Eventually, my husband, the architect, convinced me that he could add a second story to our existing house for under $100 grand. He introduced me to the contractor who would do the work. And so, the decision was made - we'd build up. Go.

We emptied the house and moved to a rental (oh how simple those 9 words are, the process was SO MUCH more, but I won't bore your here.) Construction began. When they ripped off the roof I was visiting my parents in San Diego and a friend sent me a picture. I gasped when I saw it. There was no turning back now.

Construction went on for 10 months during which time we plowed through two contractors and countless subcontractors. (yet another story) Eventually, my husband took over as GC and pieced together the work. It would save money, he said. But the reality was (is) that he is an architect and NOT a GC. And an architect who is given charge of his own project's construction is a dangerous proposition.

Needless to say we went waaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy over budget. More than $250g over budget. The house (left) was basically beautiful (if finished quickly) but the situation itself was a disaster.

We scrambled to pay our new humongous mortgage just as the economy was sinking and our business were struggling. Our families were generous and helped us so we lived there for two years... and then I decided to end the marriage. It seemed sudden to everyone but me.

I moved into the garage, sleeping on an air bed and we struggled to find solutions as to how we might "save" the house.... could one of us live in it with a roommate? Could we rent out the garage as an office? None of the "solutions" came close to being able to cover the mortgage. There was no choice but to sell.

We were lucky. Even in the down economy we received four offers with one at sixty grand over asking and no contingencies. Done. HE and I secured our individual apartments and settled into being single parents.... (hahaha - that makes it sound so easy, doesn't it?)

Now, looking out the window has become like gazing in the mirror - a reflection of the pain of divorce, financial struggles, and finally, moving on (or out, as the case may be.)

I wonder who will buy the house across the street. I'm thinking it'll be a young couple, babe in arms. Maybe a dog. I'll bring them champagne and cookies and wish them the best. The window will cease being a portal to the past and, instead, a promise for a future.... at least for now.

1 comment:

  1. Cori, I hope life brings joyful people to move in across the street. You are a beautiful, talented lady. And the future is so and miss you.


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