Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Second Nest Syndrome

My mom and dad have been married for almost 50 years, but lately they’ve been acting like a couple of newlyweds. (Not in that way. Ew, gross.)

What I mean is, my parents recently bought a second house. Just like newlyweds, they are starting their new household from scratch - needing every item imaginable, from blender to bedspread. Yes, just like Noah collecting animals…soon my parents will have two of everything.

In the meantime, they’re sleeping on leaky air mattresses.

But perhaps I’m jumping too far ahead in my tale of two seniors. Stroll with me, if you will, down the winding path that has transformed our happy pair from ordinary human beings into “active adults.”

For forty years, my parents have lived in a fieldstone house amidst 10 acres of woodland. It’s beautiful. It’s where I grew up. But it’s also a 90-minute drive from the house I share with my husband and children (squarely situated in an area I like to call The Land of Shopping Malls.)

Despite my parents’ gentle arm-twisting greased with a liberal application of guilt, it is awfully hard for my little family to make the trip out to the “country” with any regularity.

So, a couple of years ago, Mom and Dad announced their intentions to rectify the situation by buying a condo at a location half-way between their house and ours. But it wasn’t to be your typical empty-nester downsizing scenario.

They had plans to upsize to two residences, and refill their nest in the process. It was a scheme too cockamamie and convoluted to explain in-depth here, except to say it involved my 40-something unmarried sister sharing a place with Mom & Dad.

While one can only imagine the potential for hilarious sitcom-esque hi-jinks in such an arrangement (I hear guys really dig chicks who live with their parents) ultimately, the Gods of Good Sense prevailed, and the refilling-the-nest part of the plan was ditched.

It was then that my parents re-directed their search and began to look at options in the 55+ housing market.

And it was then that I began my campaign to convince them of the joys of homeownership in The Land of Shopping Malls

A cynic would say my campaign was fueled by fantasies of free and convenient babysitting just a (local) phone call away – but no! I truly enjoy spending time with my parents. (Although we mustn’t diminish the importance of the grandparent-grandchildren bond, must we?)

Regardless of motive, I gladly became an active participant in their housing search.

The most memorable moment of the process (for me, at least) occurred when we visited a “luxury active living” condominium complex in the early stages of construction.

A young saleswoman was giving us the standard presentation in the sales office. As we gathered around a rather impressive diorama depicting the community at its completion, said saleswoman pointed out the location of a “detention pond.”

Now, it was pretty obvious to me that she meant “retention pond.” But for some reason, my folks began to harp on her about it.

Dad: “Detention pond? Did you say ‘detention pond’? What’s a detention pond?”

Young Saleswoman: “Umm, a detention pond, you know, like a reservoir…”

Mom: “I’ve heard of a detention facility before, but not a detention pond.”

Meanwhile, my head nearly exploded as I tried to send my parents the psychic message “Drop it! Please! Drop it!!” (Leading to the disappointing discovery that I do not have any psychic powers whatsoever. Oh well.)

But it seems the pond, whether detention or retention, wasn’t enough. Mom and Dad began to steer their search away from condos and toward single-family homes.

Eventually, they found the perfect 55+ community a mere five-minute drive from my house. Ah, the pieces of my evil babysitting plan have begun to fall into place…

And so, at the ages of 71 and 69, Dad and Mom are starting over, in a sense. And we are more than delighted to be witness to it.

Even if visiting their new/second home means sitting on a yoga mat on the family room floor. (The lucky ones among us might score a beach chair.) See, with my parents splitting their week between two residences, all their furniture stays at the “country” house. And evidently, it’s easier to get yourself a widescreen TV (which was pretty much Dad’s first order of business) than to get furniture delivered in a timely manner.

Explaining why my parents have spent the first month in their new house sleeping on the floor, atop a pair of air mattresses they borrowed from us.

But the diva-as-packrat (yours truly) does not stop with lending air mattresses. “Hey Dad, how would you like to have your old bureau back? You know, the one you and Mom bought in 1958…remember you gave it to Bro when he got married 15 years ago…can you believe he was going to throw it out just because the drawer pull was broken? Anyway, it’s been in our garage for the last 5 years…it’s got that whole Danish Modern retro-chic thing going on…just ignore the colony of spiders living inside. And remember that coffee table we took from Grandfather’s house? We’ve been using it as a staging area for empty gift boxes in the basement -- but we’d be more than happy to lend it to you. Indefinitely. The legs just need a little wood glue, that’s all…”

He took the bureau by the way. Mom still needs some convincing on the coffee table.

Hmm…I wonder how many houses my parents would have to buy before I could clean out my entire basement and garage? A beachfront place would be nice…


At January 10, 2008 5:50 PM, Blogger Merujo said...

"...eventually her parents had string of homes, dotting the countryside like a trail of breadcrumbs..." ;)

I've found this ingenious way to clear out my apartment (since no family members live close enough to pawn stuff off on, darn it!) We have an online message board at work. I've been able to sell people virtually every piece of junk I've posted so far, from beaten up cookbooks to clearance items I bought at the Body Shop at the after Xmas sale in 2004.

At January 10, 2008 8:38 PM, Blogger Cyn said...

Lol on the breadcrumbs. One can only hope.

See, Merujo, the problem is that I honestly don't want part with anything. It's called "packrat" and I've got it bad. (Husband does too, so it's doubly bad.)

Plus, if I just give stuff to family I can still visit it (the same rationale that led family to give this stuff to me, btw.)

Sounds like you have a good method though.

At January 11, 2008 4:01 PM, Blogger Merujo said...

I'm going to get a reputation at work as "the junk lady" but I'm trying so hard to be good about ridding myself of stuff. I'm a lifelong packrat, too. Sometimes I dream of having empty space, but I love my stuff. For me, this is a baby steps-type move. :)

At January 15, 2008 10:14 AM, Blogger kristen said...

If they need any knick-knacks, let me know. Also a set of 4 random pasta bowls with illustrations of "olive oil" and "tomato sauce" on them. Never used, never asked for, given with love I'm sure. I also have a tiny steam cleaner, a weird broom vacuum, and a monitor the size of Rhode Island to meet their state of the art computing needs (in 1995). No charge. My reward is seeing these things find a good home (and not tripping over them anymore while doing laundry in the basement).


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