85: Mom’s Dream House

85: Mom’s Dream House

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Mom’s Dream House

The more a daughter knows the details of her mother’s life, the stronger the daughter.

~Anita Diamant

I was visiting Mom in Philadelphia where she and my stepfather lived. We were having a cup of coffee when she asked, “Did I ever tell you about the time I bought a house for a dollar?”

“No, I think I would remember that,” I answered, wondering why I had never heard this amazing story before.

She must have realized how badly I needed hope that afternoon almost two decades ago. My job in Christian media was rewarding, but I worked lots of hours for little pay. After paying our monthly bills, there wasn’t much left over. My son Zach was already a teenager. I didn’t see any way that I would ever make enough money to buy a house for us.

My mother understood the importance of a home of your own. She and my father had purchased a couple together, before her heart was broken when their marriage fell apart. When this happened, Mom was in her early forties with seven children, five still living at home ranging in age from nine months to sixteen years. She once wrote, “The days did not hold any certainty — except the absolute certainty that I must start a new life after twenty-three years of marriage.”

The year before my parents separated, I had moved into my first apartment, trying to escape the impending family doom. Being a self-involved teenager, I had no idea how greatly my mother was suffering or how courageously she dealt with all the obstacles she faced.

Her only income was a meager stipend as a church organist, because she had quit her job as a school music teacher when my youngest brother Jeremy was born. Mom’s savings account had a balance of just $250, but in the divorce settlement she would eventually receive child support and possession of the family home — an older house filled with painful memories in a deteriorating neighborhood where she no longer wanted to live.

Mom’s friend Eileen was a real estate agent who sympathized with her dream of wanting a new beginning in a safer neighborhood. Yet she also knew that Mom’s limited income would prevent her from getting a bank loan.

Despite this, my mother told me, “Eileen called me one morning and suggested we go look at homes that afternoon. She considered this an outing, but I believed it was house hunting… she took us to a two-bedroom home on a boulevard street. The home, although well-constructed, was dirty and neglected — but it had a lovely living room, dining room, family room, one full bath and two half baths. There was a large attic with a pull-down stairway.”

My then sixteen-year-old brother happened to go along on this house-hunting excursion. Already handy with tools, Greg said he thought he could convert the attic into the two additional bedrooms the family would require.

His offer cinched the deal for Mom. Eileen didn’t have the heart to inform her soon-to-be divorced friend that she was certain no bank would finance the plan.

Instead she wrote up the purchase agreement, later explaining, “I didn’t want to see you cry, so I thought I’d let the banker give you the bad news.” After completing the paperwork, Eileen asked, “Do you have a dollar, Glenna? There has to be a down payment and one dollar will make it a binding contract.” Mom handed Eileen the dollar bill, and eagerly signed the contract.

The following morning, my mother provided the bank’s loan officer with the property’s address. “I jog every morning and go by that house,” he said. “It needs some work, but it is a well-built home in an excellent area.”

The banker never asked about my mother’s income, just her profession. “I imagine you would like a blanket mortgage until the divorce and house sale are final,” he suggested. My mother quickly agreed.

Eileen was flabbergasted when Mom called to tell her the exciting news. “I now know the Lord means for you to have that home,” she said with astonishment.

By sharing this miraculous story, my mother was trying to give me hope that “God’s plans are greater than any plans we could imagine.”

I thought of her one-dollar house often. Still, my life took a different turn when a few years after Zach grew up and moved out, I married a then forty-nine-year-old school administrator named Larry. Larry was a lifelong bachelor who had never had children. We weren’t able to purchase a home because his career required three moves during the next decade.

Mom adored Larry, and she never gave up on trying to find a way for us to buy a home of our own. Then, in the fall of 2010, our seventy-eight-year-old beloved matriarch died suddenly. My desire to be a homeowner seemed to die with her.

It was resurrected in January 2013, when Larry’s job finally allowed us to put down roots. We compiled a list of features we would like in our dream house. Two months later, I noticed an Internet listing for a property that was nearly an identical match. It was even in our price range.

I called Jeff, our real estate agent, right away. “It’s already one of three houses you’re going to be seeing this weekend,” Jeff said encouragingly. This seemed like more than a coincidence, since we were searching in three different Ohio cities.

When we pulled into the driveway, I sensed that this brick ranch belonged to us. As the agent unlocked the front door, I didn’t see the stained carpet or dingy walls; instead I saw God’s gift to a woman who had always wanted a home.

I fought back tears of gratitude, while my husband’s eyes widened in amazement at the house that fit our wish list and budget almost perfectly. Larry loved the property, but he left the decision up to me.

My brother Don, who is a real estate agent in Florida, told me that if I really wanted the property, I should decide quickly. It was a great buy, and someone else could snatch it up. Yet fear immobilized me, so I sat with my open Bible debating whether to agree to the owner’s final offer. That’s when I noticed some papers stuck in the back of the Bible.

It was an e-mail from Mom sent a decade earlier containing pages of advice about buying a home. I had forgotten that I had printed it out, or even kept it until then. That e-mail was all the incentive I needed to close the deal.

In April 2013, Larry and I signed papers that made me a first-time homeowner in my fifties. A little elbow grease, fresh paint, and some new carpet made it our own. I like to believe there’s a window in Heaven where my mother can see my little dream house, the answer to her decades of prayers.

~Christina Ryan Claypool

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