We asked you to show us how close the recession is to your doorstep. Here’s your latest entry.
Name: Kari Hartmann
Location: About 20 steps from my home in California
Recovery/downturn: A few months ago on a warm summer day, completely out of the blue, my neighbors packed everything in their house and left.
If I hadn’t happened to see them at an intersection downtown as they were driving away with their truck stuffed with furniture, I’d never have known what happened to them. At first I couldn’t quite believe it. I’d been away from home for two days. How do you move a whole family, and an entire house worth of belongings, in two days? I was convinced that maybe they were just moving a child to college or putting some of their things in mini-storage. But days turned into weeks, and they never came back. Their mailbox got so full it fell off the wall. Without irrigation, their yard started to wither in the baking heat of July and August. To keep the abandoned fruit trees from dying, I’d thread a hose through the fence whenever I watered my own yard.
After they left, what I mainly noticed was the spreading quiet. My neighbor’s loud diesel truck didn’t wake me every morning as he left for work before dawn. They’d never been noisy, but they did have three cars, and at times that made my short block seem overcrowded. Suddenly, we all had more elbow room. For the first time in 12 years, there was plenty of on-street parking, which was nice. What’s not so nice is what this foreclosure is going to do to the property values of everyone who still lives on my little street. The young married couple across from me who are first time homeowners. My longtime friend who lived across from the people who moved out. My mother, who bought a rental house on the corner of my block so that down the road, if she needs help as she ages, she can be close to me. And of course, me.
The collateral damage is out of our hands now, so there’s not much sense in worrying about it.
When the fruit was ready on the trees in their yard this summer, someone in the neighborhood brought a ladder over to harvest the pears and apples. Everyone is trying to make the best of the situation, I guess. We can’t do much about our shattered property values but we can bake pies or make applesauce to give away during the holidays. Meanwhile, we wait and watch as the FedEx agent delivers ever more urgent overnight packages to an empty house, tucking them behind the glass screen door where soon enough they’ll be invisible as the porch fills up with leaves.
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