The Right Time for Change — and the Right Place
by The Rev. Cn. Patricia Coller
In the summer of 2007, I purchased what my elder daughter referred to as “the house you’ve always dreamed of.” It was a grand home, large enough to accommodate my three children, their spouses and significant others, and their children when they all came to visit. Shortly after I moved in, I renovated the basement into a two-bedroom apartment, where my younger daughter and her family came to live. It was the venue for many a family gathering — holidays, baptisms, birthday parties, and even my younger daughter’s wedding.
My husband and I held parties and receptions there for friends, colleagues, and parishioners. My daughter-in-law called it “El Rancho Relaxo” because she, my son, and their children loved coming and spending a few days in what to them felt like an amazingly relaxing environment.
Of course, life happens. My older daughter died in 2008. My husband died in 2013, and my mother in 2015. My younger daughter and her husband were thrilled to be able to purchase a home of their own early in 2015, and by the summer of that year, I was living in my very large, grand home by myself. No longer was I hosting parties and events, and my family circumstances had changed so I did not need such a large space.
While I loved that house, I began to experience a nagging feeling that it might be time to downsize. A couple of things concerned me. The value of the house had decreased during the recession, and I really did not want to sell it at a loss. In addition, I did not want to lose the sense of “family homestead” that the house had come to represent. Maybe, most of all, I simply dreaded the physical work of downsizing and moving. And yet, the cost of maintaining the home was becoming impractical, especially on my retirement income. In the spirit of good stewardship, it felt warranted that I look for a smaller place to live.
One day I noticed a sign for a new housing development just a few blocks away. I drove over, took a tour of the model home, and viewed the floor plans for the various homes that were being built there. The idea of having to choose wall colors, floors, and countertops felt daunting, but I loved what I was seeing in the model, and began to feel a little bit excited — like I just might have found the next house for me. I told the agent that I was interested. She estimated that it would be several months before the model would be ready to sell, and that was just fine with me. I was in no hurry to rush into a move, and I needed to sell my house before I could purchase the new one anyway. Shortly thereafter, I put my beloved big house on the market.
During the weeks after the “for sale” sign was put up, I half hoped it wouldn’t sell — that would be God’s way of telling me I really didn’t need to move after all. Weeks turned into months, and still no sale. Meanwhile, all the homes in the new development were selling, and the model home went on the market. I was sure that I had missed my chance, that someone else would fall in love with it and make an offer immediately, as it really is a beautiful home.
After ten months and two price-reductions, there finally was an offer on my house. I began to look online to see what properties were available in my area, and much to my surprise, the model home in the new development was still for sale. Not wanting to make a mistake, I visited four properties the next day with my real estate agent and my 13-year-old granddaughter. The last one we visited was the model home, and when we pulled up in front, my granddaughter cried out, “This is the one!” Inside, she immediately claimed one of the bedrooms as her own. Between her excitement and the fact that the house was by some miracle still available, I came to feel that my owning it was “meant to be,” and I finally accepted that it really was time to make a new start.
I have now lived in my new home for three months. While the house is definitely much smaller than my previous residence, it has been more than adequate for hosting family dinners, guests, and even Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have learned that for my children, home is wherever I am, and wherever we can all gather together. Surprisingly, I do not miss my former home…I do not feel a sense of attachment to it. Instead, I am beginning to love the home I am in, and am grateful that once again I am able to experience new life in a new place.
The Reverend Canon Pat Coller currently serves as Missional (part-time) Priest at Christ Church in Norwalk, Connecticut. After retiring from her position as EVP and Chief Ecclesiastical Officer for the Church Pension Group, Pat has spent the majority of her time engaging in parish ministry, participating in the Interfaith Clergy Association of Norwalk, mentoring those in the process leading to ordination, and best of all, caring for two of her granddaughters, ages 1 and 3.