I can’t get away from real estate, even when I try. My summer reading included a collection of short stories called Other People We Married by Emma Staub. In the story, this section hit a nerve for me. I have clients who think this way. I don’t think it is good for them. Do you agree with Claire? Do you think real estate is who you are?
… Before they moved to Cobble Hill, Claire and Matt talked about real estate as much as they talked about themselves. Who are they, they would ask: a one bedroom with an office. A half bath? Were they a decorative fireplace or a breakfast bar? When Claire got pregnant, things got more clear. They were a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath co-op on the garden floor of a brownstone. Rosemary [the cat] could lie in the sun, the bricks baking her black fur. They were a family of four. Everything was going to be perfect, just like in a magazine: gloss and impossible.
This kind of thinking leads to trouble. No real estate makes life perfect. There is no single perfect place for someone. I do, however, agree that criteria changes dramatically when there is an expected or already-born infant in the picture. Did that happen to you? Did you suddenly turn into a “two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath…”?
In a general way, identity and real estate are connected. Density is a personal choice based on matters of personal space and privacy. Some people are “city” some “country.” There are beliefs imbedded in these decisions about living close to other people, about what children need, and about what city living means for opportunity and class status. Many of my clients have a hard time making the transition from city to suburban. Some have problems from suburban to city.
The social trope that kids need “fresh air and sunshine” that they can’t get in the city has been part of the culture for a few generations.
When I had a cold last week, I started channel surfing and found I Love Lucy. Of course, it was the episode when they bought the house in Connecticut (first aired 1/28/1957.) I didn’t remember the details, so I watched. Here’s the story: The Ricardoes went to visit friends in Connecticut for the weekend. While they were there, they saw a house they loved. On the way home, by train, they decided to buy it because little Ricky was turning six and needed fresh air and sunshine. Big Ricky put a $500 deposit on the house without telling Lucy. Then Lucy got cold feet about leaving the Mertzes behind. Ricky tried to cancel the deal, but the seller was already moving to another place and said, “No, a deal’s a deal.” So, the Mertzes and Lucy went out to the house and pretended to be a gang of thugs, thinking the seller would cancel the deal. They dropped a toy gun in an attempt to scare the sellers. The seller (he) pulled out a rifle and held them at gunpoint. Just before the seller called the police, Ricky shows up. The seller (she) then held the gun on Lucy, Ethel and Fred. Ricky and Mr. Seller went offstage, where they agree to cancel the deal and return the retainer. Meanwhile, on stage, Lucy starts telling Ethel about how wonderful the house is. She falls back in love with it. The seller (she) is charmed by the way Lucy talks about the house. When the men return, the deal is put back together, for a higher price for wear and tear on the sellers’ nerves.
Did you have second-thoughts moving out of the city? Did you stay in the city with children? Was either perfect? Was either YOU?
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