Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Selling Apartment 18F

We have a buyer. We're on the final rounds of clearing out Aunt Winnie's apartment though the closing won't be for another two months. My husband and son and I went there yesterday for one last look for things we might keep. There weren't many. There is a perfectly good couch that will go to an emergency apartment for people who get burned or flooded out of their homes. There is a Rolls Royce of a wheelchair that no senior center will take because it is pre-used. There is the rolling walker which the retirement center will take. They'll also take the boxes of unopened adult diapers and bed liners. There is a hospital bed that will go in the dumpster, and a dresser that has stood in its spot for 40 plus years. I toyed with taking the mirror from that dresser and hanging it on my wall. And then I decided I didn't want to be in my home and feel as if I was back in Aunt Winnie's sick room. I want things that remind me of her at her most buoyant, though I didn't ultimately take that chandelier lamp she loved and that we all joked about saving.

My husband took two sets of sherry glasses that would have gone to the thrift shop otherwise, and three silver trays in dire need of a cleaning. My son asked for the antique clock in his uncle's room. We left the very good recliner as we have no space for any more furniture. Maybe they will go in the emergency apartment, too. My mother's winter and fall clothes were also stored in the apartment. My cousin took some of those for her 95 year old mother, with whatever doesn't fit going to her church.

A very nice family with two newly adopted sons, one with special needs, will be buying the place, and they plan a gut renovation, which is good. The space has all sorts of potential and great light, and it could definitely use a refresh. The woman's mother lives in the apartment immediately below Aunt Winnie's, so on a winter morning her daughter won't even have to leave the building to take her sons to their grandmother. The mother is a lovely woman, who was always very nice to my aunt and uncle and to my own mother, so I am glad this is the family who will take over this space that is so emblematic of our family's history.

On Facebook yesterday I reflected that Apartment 18F has held the dreams of our whole extended family for more than 50 years. Aunt Winnie and Uncle Charlie were the gateway, the launch pad, the sanctuary for all of us who moved to America, and this three bedroom apartment in Morningside Heights was always our second, and at times our first, home. It is so difficult to contemplate now releasing the space where so much of this family's energy was spent. But Aunt Winnie and Uncle Charlie were there for us when we needed it, they showed us the meaning of commitment, of devotion to family, of humor and generosity and love. That will live on in each of us even when Apt 18F is ours no more. How lucky we are to have shared in all that transpired within these walls.

Two of my cousins called me crying when they read news of the sale because relinquishing this apartment we all grew up visiting, and in which so many of us lived for a season, is harder than any words can convey.


  1. This is so heartwrenching.
    But the life which was held within those walls no longer need the walls.
    You have all made your own nests. But you will never forget.
    Loving you.

  2. I loved my first house that I bought, in California. It represented so much important to me and I really grew up in a lot of ways there. I sold it during the boom period there, and I carefully screened all potential buyers. I settled on a mixed-race family with two small children, who didn't cringe when they saw the bold colors I'd put on the walls (they may have just been polite), and whose children were so thrilled with the backyard. I turned down buyers with considerably larger offers because I really liked the energy of that family.

    In the following bust years, at least half the homes in the neighborhood went into foreclosure and it became like the desolate areas on the news. But that family is still in that house (I check the property records). Every time I'm in town I drive past and see the love they have there, the little things they've changed and what good care they take of my house. Sometimes it looks like extended family is staying with them, based on the extra cars, and I love that it's a refuge for people. It was supposed to be a starter home for them, but I like to think that they loved it so much they couldn't bear to leave. And now the area is really coming back, and they are anchors.

    I think you will feel so much pleasure with the new family in Aunt Winnie's apartment, as their energy mixes with all that is already there.

  3. There are no words to describe the letting go of a place tied with so many memories. I believe you have found the right family who will continue the tradition of filling up that space with all the love it so richly deserves. Hugs to you.

  4. You are such a beautiful writer, Angella -- and person. I am amazed at your ability to convey so much in such simple, lyrical language and photos.

  5. I'm sure it is incredibly hard to let go of a space that has meant so much to your family! At least you were able to save some mementos. My mom is going to put our family home in Florida on the market, probably within the next year or so. It's going to be a big change for all of us!

  6. My heart is with yours during this time of grief, reflection, and new beginnings (hugs). ~nancy

  7. This made me emotional as well. I love the way your writing is so tender and open--I feel that is so brave. And beautiful. It sounds like a wonderful legacy for your dear Aunt and Uncle's space. Though that does not make it any easier to let go. I wish some peace and comfort for your heart. Xoxo.

  8. A sad post, I know it's the way life goes, but still. I hope you can carry lots of memories with you instead of the big furniture. That's what counts, no?
    Sometimes, we look at the former home of my in laws online, it has changed hands twice since we sold it. But we don't dare drive by it when we are in the area. It was a place of great happiness for all of us. But the sale helped us to buy our home and selling this one eventually will most likely help our child to buy hers.

  9. Whew.

    Ms Moon is right. It no longer needs the walls, but the tangible is sometimes so comforting and the space so precious that it is hard to let it go. This is truly powerful. Your own ellis island. I've now gone down the rabbit hole on some of your other posts --you are such a powerful writer.

  10. The web of love your family weaves with such care and constancy so clearly endures.