All in the Multifamily
Our small condo association had become remarkably close, and we were to learn that one couple's problems were shared by all.
There were a few times when we heard voices raised in the condo beneath ours. My husband, Nick, and I didn't think much of it -- after all, it was a rarity, and our downstairs neighbors were clearly not hitting each other. But there were other signs, too. We just didn't know how to read them.
Three years ago, Nick and I were the first to move into our then newly "condo-converted" three-unit brownstone in the last up-and-coming section of the South End; we purchased the top floor with the roof deck and amazing views. Soon after, a husband and wife moved below us, and we instantly became friends. The first floor remained empty and unsold for almost a year. Finally, another husband-and-wife couple moved in, and we were at once a happy family.
At our first condo meeting, each unit picked a trustee and, thank God, Unit 2 wife took over as secretary/treasurer. She proved to be the ideal choice: She kept all of us on time with our payments to utility and insurance companies and condo fees, and she closely monitored the progress of shared home improvement projects. She became our building's conscience.
Our friendly condo association met regularly to have dinner and drink multiple bottles of wine. Together we painted, shoveled snow, and picked up litter in the park. When you share a brownstone, you learn a lot about one another. From the catalogs, magazines, and other mail that arrived, we learned where everyone shopped and what they were interested in. From the recycling bins, we learned what brand of juice everyone bought (we were all fans of organic products). We even got to know the parents of both Unit 1 and Unit 2 and exchanged holiday greetings with them. While I don't think any of us felt that we would live in our condos forever, it all started to feel very comfortable.
But six months ago, Nick and I sensed a change with Unit 2. They looked a bit haggard and were not their usually upbeat selves. There were comings and goings at odd times, the occasional raised voices. Unit 2 no longer met us on the stoop to talk for hours and share a drink. They no longer rang our bell just to say hello, visit with the dogs, or tell us they had extra dessert to share. It was as if life had ceased to exist on the second floor. We knew something was up, but we weren't sure what.
At our condo association's last dinner together, Nick and I finally figured it out. I spotted that neither half of Unit 2 was wearing a wedding ring. A wave of sorrow washed over me. I don't think Unit 1 noticed -- they were busy with their newborn son, and that took up just about all of the couple's bandwidth.
Later that night, Unit 2 knocked on our door and told us that they were separating.
I responded as honestly as I could when I said, "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say, except that we're rooting for you and we would be very sad if you were not able to stay together." They left, and Nick and I sat in stunned silence.
A few weeks later, I noticed that Unit 2 husband's Facebook profile changed from "Married" to "It is complicated" to "Single." He stopped by on a Sunday afternoon to tell me that Unit 2 wife had filed for divorce. He was staying in the condo. I asked if Unit 1 knew. In response, I got a "No" and a request to share the news. After all, the divorce impacted all of us.
Nick and I sat down with Unit 1 and explained things. Unit 1 wife was the first to put two and two together when she asked, "Who's going to take care of all of our association details?" We all knew that we were losing our most organized and responsible member, and none of us wanted to be secretary/treasurer. All four of us felt that things would never be quite the same in our brownstone and that our family, our way of doing and sharing things at home, was ending.
I feel as if we are all getting a divorce. Our three years together will mean nothing in the long run, and that makes me sad . . . and makes me the secretary/treasurer.