The deed is done, but not forgotten

Our house1

“Ach! I’ve got to get rid of this albatross around my neck!” my husband Francis exclaimed recently, with plenty of overly-dramatic Italian gesturing with hairy arms.

“‘Albatross’? Don’t be so dramatic,” I retorted. “I love that house. Hayden will never forget his little blue room, Anna took her first steps in that cul-de-sac, Lilly was born there … and Zuzu is buried in the back yard for criminy’s sake!”

Last week, we put the house we’ve owned since 1998 on the market, and our emotions have been mixed.

After returning from a military tour of duty in England with a toddler and a newborn, we bought our first home in Virginia Beach, intending to stay a while. Even though “homesteading” was frowned upon, we didn’t care – our son had been diagnosed with developmental delays, and in order for his treatment to be effective, he needed stability. Lucky for us, Francis was offered competitive Navy orders to Second Fleet, Fleet Forces Command, and Joint Forces Command, enabling us to stay put without jeopardizing his career.

During the years we lived on our suburban cul-de-sac, the kids knew the shortcut to the local park. I planned the neighborhood Halloween Parade every year. We got our first puppy “Dinghy” after Zuzu the cat died. We went to the ice cream place down the street after Hayden’s flag football games. Lilly would toddle across the circle in nothing but a diaper to flirt with Jimmy, our 16-year-old neighbor. On Friday nights, we drank cold beer with our neighbors while sitting in lawn chairs on the driveway. And mornings, we could hear the Fairfield Elementary School announcements from our front porch.

In that happy little Dutch Colonial, I dabbled in home improvements, installing a new faucet, ceiling fans, lights, and built-in shelving in the playroom. Every spring, while the daffodils, azaleas, ferns and hostas pushed through the mulch, Francis and I argued about whether the lawn needed aerating. We added a screened porch, which became the site of many birthday dinners, afternoon coffee breaks, and Lilly’s first communion brunch. Anna broke her arm falling from our backyard playset, and the following year, Lilly got stitches in her head for the same reason.

Oblivious to the fact that the military would eventually force us to move from our sweet little family home, we meticulously scratched the height of each member of our growing brood, to include Dinghy the dog, into the pantry door.

Like I said, I loved that house.

When we got orders to Germany in 2008, we told ourselves, “We’ll definitely come back here one day.”

But we never did.

Now, before we have to face tricky capital gains taxes, we have decided to sell. Francis isn’t sad to see her go, because he is tired of the responsibilities and stresses of renting and maintaining a house from a distance. Unscrupulous property managers, surprise repairs, expensive maintenance, negligent renters, and those painful months between rentals when we had to pay our mortgage without receiving any rent checks, put Francis in the mood to sell.

I, on the other hand, feel the bittersweet pangs of melancholy as I prepare myself to sign away the deed to a decade of some of the most important years of our family’s life.

But it is time.

Time for another young family to grace her walls with baby photos. Time for another child to hang a swing from the branches of her big oak tree. Time for another husband to gripe about the leaves in her gutters, and for another wife to plant pansies in her front beds. Time for another pair of siblings to draw on her playroom walls with permanent marker. Time for another dog to sleep soundly in front of her fire-warmed hearth.

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[According to the 2015 Census, about 64% of Americans own homes, but only 38% of military members buy houses. Some military families find home ownership too risky or simply not affordable. But there are special resources for military buyers and sellers. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development website (hud.gov) explains the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) which limits interest on mortgages and provides debt relief for eligible military members. Housing counselors are available at 1-888-995-HOPE. The Military Housing Assistance Fund (usmhaf.org) offers monetary “gifts” to qualified service members who need help paying closing costs. Makinghomeaffordable.gov has information on foreclosure alternatives available to struggling homeowners. And buyers can calculate their VA Loan eligibility at www.veteransunited.com.]

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Comments: 12

  1. cathyturney April 22, 2016 at 10:26 pm Reply

    Oh, Lisa, one of the happiest days of my life was when we sold the rental! I’m so glad you mentioned the assistance that’s out there for military families. I always try to get my sellers to go with the veteran buyer – it’s one way nonmilitary people can give back to those who gave for them.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 23, 2016 at 7:57 pm Reply

      We have a showing tomorrow, so fingers crossed!

  2. Melissa April 22, 2016 at 9:35 am Reply

    My heart literally skipped a beat at one point in your story, it resonated so strongly. The memories of those happy years spent in the house will always be a part of you, Francis and the kids…it is very hard, though, to realize that chapter of your life is over. Best wishes for the future and finding a new permanent home in a community you love, where you can build new happy memories.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 23, 2016 at 7:57 pm Reply

      I’m glad this one pulled at your heartstrings Melissa!

  3. Mary April 21, 2016 at 2:15 pm Reply

    Oh Lisa there are so many wonderful memories of life in Virginia Beach. It was hard for us to leave there as well, but the warm and lovely memories are forever in our hearts. Best of luck with your sale.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 23, 2016 at 7:56 pm Reply

      Thanks Mary – VA Beach is a special place to raise a little family. We will always have fond memories.

  4. Holly April 21, 2016 at 1:20 pm Reply

    We also are military home owners stationed away from our home. In California, we went through 5 or 6 in 12 years — finally just gave up and sold the place. In Maryland, we got really lucky and had the same one for 21 years (actually 2 — but only because we followed our managers when hey set up their own company). Tenants can be a challenge … some take care of the property … others, well, not so much. Selling a home is definitely an end to one stage of your life … but if you are like us, you may wonder if you will be able to cope when your SO doesn’t deploy periodically and is a-l-w-a-y-s around. We’ll deal with that when we get to that point ….

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 23, 2016 at 7:55 pm Reply

      I feel your pain – my husband hasn’t deployed or been on travel in a long time!

  5. energywriter April 21, 2016 at 1:17 pm Reply

    Hard decision, but sometimes we reach that point. Good luck on the sale. And remember that memories are in your heart not the house.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 23, 2016 at 7:54 pm Reply

      Yes, that’s a good thing to remember, Sharon.

  6. Patrice April 21, 2016 at 10:25 am Reply

    That was a fun house! Best of luck with the sale!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 21, 2016 at 11:59 am Reply

      Thanks P — she’s all fixed up and ready to go, so fingers crossed she’ll sell soon!

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