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My Most Important Closing

By Paul F. Alphen - Posted on 07 May 2015

I recently read that the average American moves fourteen times in a lifetime. My Mom lived in her house in Wayland for forty-six years. I went to the closing on her house today and a nice young couple with young kids will now begin to create their own collection of memories within. A lot happens in forty six years. We have memories of forty six Christmases, countless birthdays, plus Mother’s Days, Father’s Days, graduation celebrations and all the other important family events that naturally gravitate to the home of the matriarch and patriarch of the family. You could not calculate the number of meals served, or the number of times I mowed the lawn.

We went from coloring books and train sets to automobiles and universities. We learned how to barbeque chicken and broil haddock. It is where I tormented my sisters. It is where I painted a house for the first and last time in my life. We also learned how quickly the Fire Department can arrive when summoned, and how the neighbors can report on the little parties that occurred when our parents were away. 

The house was more than a home. It was the office of our parents’ insurance business. It was a function hall when called upon to be the site of my sisters’ wedding receptions and my rehearsal dinner. It was the political headquarters for numerous campaigns. It was a police substation when my buddies on the department would stop by to eat at all hours of the day and night. It was a garage were Stevie, Dougie, Jeff and I graduated from oil changes to racing engines armed with nothing more than a Chilton’s Manual and some Craftsmen tools. It was a boat yard. It was an all day diner. It was our hangout. 

We made lifelong friends in the neighborhood. We made lifelong friends in the town. The house is an indelible part of our personalities. 

It was the place that each of us introduced our mother to our future spouses. It was where we received neighbors, relatives and friends after our Dad died in 1973. It was where our children played with their cousins, and where our kids stayed when it was time for the parents to have a short vacation. The house had been the center of our universe, but we naturally moved away to start our own lives and families; always returning for important events or for just dinner with Mom. 

It was where we all gathered around the kitchen table last year to share the prognosis that the medical oncologist had explained to my mother and I earlier in the day. It was where I told my sisters than our mother would be gone in a few months. The house again became the center of our universe as we maintained a constant vigil and sustained the spirits of Mom and one another. 

A home is more than lumber and plumbing. It is more than the colloquial “American Dream”. It is more than a mortgage application, an appraisal and a deed. A home is a gathering place. It is a safe place where you can laugh and you can cry. You can be alone or with a gang. You can fend off an illness, you can rejoice in accomplishments, you can teach your children everything you know. It is a playground. It is a school. It is a restaurant. It is an inn. It is a hospital. 

From my key ring I removed the house key that I had carried since I was eleven years old, handed it to the young couple and I wished them well. I told them that their kids will love the playroom and the lake across the street. I went out to my car and had to sit and wait a few minutes for my eyes to clear. I then returned a call from my eldest son who had left a message about an offer to purchase for his first home. It occurred to me that I had a front row seat to witness the circle of life. 

In the aftermath of the mortgage crisis and the ongoing foreclosure debacles, do not let the bad publicity associated with abuses in the mortgage market distract us from the true value of homeownership. Homeownership is priceless.