Traverse City Record-Eagle


June 8, 2014

Allison Batdorff: Sleepless nights, mortgages and staying put

My dreams last night were straight out of the psychoanalyst playbook. I was running late for a flight at the airport. I couldn’t find my child. I smelled something burning. I jump at night noises and in the daytime, it feels like someone is sitting on my chest.

I don’t need a textbook — or a couch — to diagnose my problem. I’m fairly sure I can boil it down to three little words — “30-year mortgage.”

Substitute these for another three: “long-term planning” and you have the name of a condition that should be listed in my personal “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”

It’s exciting, like skydiving is exciting. Sure, the chute may not open, but chances are, it will. It’s a risk, scary in the moment, exhilarating long-term. But sky-diving is fun. Is homeownership? I see drudgery and bowed backs, early winter mornings chipping away ice with a shovel, leaky faucets and weekends divided between yardwork and fretting about what is going to break next.

Wise, seasoned homeowners reassure me that all I lack is perspective. Thirty years doesn’t mean bars on the doors and tin-cup serenades. My savings isn’t evaporating — it’s “transferring.” Debt? Everybody does it. But my heart races when I think of our nest egg moved into a nest where 1,000 things could happen to it. Weasels. Tree rot. Killer bees.

Yet I am the product of many mortgages — of generations who feathered their nests and stayed put. Both sets of my grandparents raised their families in their homes. We grandchildren could see the scars our parents left on the walls, marvel at the size of the bathrooms — one bathroom for 10 kids? — and fall for the same “house” pranks. The laundry chute trick — otherwise known as the “wet washcloth in the face” — is a family favorite.

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