I am thankful for much in my life – foremost my son and daughter, followed by friends, family, and dogs (and not always in that order). This Thanksgiving I am also very thankful to be living in my own house again. I never take for granted that I am a homeowner, probably because I didn’t own a house until I was over 40. There’s something to be said for delayed gratification to help you appreciate what you have. I remember listening to a group of women in mid-life talk about their increased interest in spirituality. They agreed that after years of acquiring houses and cars and a variety of other grown-up toys, they felt unfulfilled and slightly dissatisfied by their material goods. I piped up, “Well I just now got them and I feel very satisfied!” We all laughed, but I realized once again that my life’s timeline was out of sync with many of my peers.
Owning a house was not high on my priorities when I was younger. After college I married and moved to Germany, my (then) husband’s native land. We lived the life of poor students but managed to travel a bit and enjoy ourselves. Later we moved back to the US and started over. I enrolled in graduate school and we continued to live on a tight budget. This was partly because we travelled back to Germany to visit family. My biological clock began to tick and we had two children. Both of us worked a variety of jobs, often more than one at a time, to support ourselves. Neither of us was very materialistic, but it did get tiresome trying so hard to make ends meet, and we had no savings. Several years and a divorce later, I was living in California, starting over again. I was content with my life as a single parent, but starting over yet again doesn’t help build up a savings account.
Everything changed in 2000 – my father died. It was not totally unexpected. Though not old, he had been in poor health for years, mostly due to the smoking habit he had begun as a teenager. Not unusual for his generation, but that, combined with asthma, damaged his health beyond repair. Still, it’s a shock when a parent dies. A few weeks later we were on our way to my dad’s memorial. He was not religious and had not wanted a service of any kind. Colleagues, friends, and family gathered together in his memory, a difficult weekend for us all. Before I returned to California, my stepmother took each of us five kids aside and told us what we would receive from our father. I realized then that I would have the down payment for a house. Within a few months, I had invested the money from my dad in my first house. It turned out to be a good investment and the best years in California real estate to buy and sell. Three and a half years later I sold it for 94% more than what I had paid. My dad would have gotten a real kick out of that. I started over again (how many times is it now?) and moved back to Austin. I bought a larger house with a larger yard and still had some money to tide me over until I found a job. Thanks, Dad, for giving me the means to start over.
Seven and a half years and one fire later, my house has a fresh start. The interior has been totally rebuilt, the exterior repainted, and it looks wonderful. I’m thankful to my insurance company. I’m thankful to my contractor and all the workers who helped put it together again. I’m very thankful that the worst of the fire experience is over. I’m thankful that my son, who had been home alone when the fire broke out, wanted to return to the house and spend Thanksgiving with me. I’m thankful that my daughter will have one more college vacation in her old room before I put the house back on the market. I’m thankful that I have a house to sell so that I can begin my empty nest years in a house more suitable to me. This Thanksgiving I’m just plain thankful.