Cracks in the Facade

12 Jan

As the inhabitant of a quirky old house, I’ve found that there’s usually a certain amount of reverse snobbery from the inhabitants of quirky old houses.  We talk about McMansions (huge but poorly built houses that spring up on tracts of former farmland) and McMullets (brick or stone facade but metal siding on the back and sides). The latter is a reference, of course, to the haircut (as in business in the front, party in the back–get it?). Our farm lies adjacent to a community of McMansions and McMullets built on three-acre plots that once made up another farm (which sold for a couple million around the turn of the millennium).  That development is a perpetual source of curiosity to me, especially in winter when the treeline no longer blocks it from view, and I have posted about it before.  Since then, I’ve met a few people who live over there (a few of whom seem nice enough) but have gotten to know none of them in any kind of meaningful way.

Anyway, I was having coffee with a friend the other day and the subject of foreclosures came up.  She mentioned that there had been a few in her own neighborhood (new houses but on the small side of McMansiondom). I told her I had heard that foreclosures were rampant in the development next to our farm (and that everyone else was totally underwater since those houses which apparently went for $1 million plus a few years ago are now worth half that). She told me that a friend of hers who lived over there went through foreclosure and left the neighborhood (and our community) last year.  I very vaguely knew the woman in question. She was one of those perfectly turned out skinny blond chicks one frequently encounters in the upscale supermarkets that dot the exurban landscape.  Always cool and stylish, often in workout clothes, but never a hair out of place, you know the type.  I only saw her at my kids’ preschool with her youngest child, a beautiful, tiny blond girl, who was a year behind Hank.  I hadn’t noticed that this woman wasn’t around this fall–like I said, I hardly knew her.  My friend, who was fairly close to her, gave me the scoop: her husband had been out of work for a while, she had a part time job working nights from home. Oh and it turns out they also have an autistic kid. I was kind of blown away.

You look at her and think she has it all together, I said.

She works hard to make it look that way, my friend answered.

There’s no question that there’s a lot of money around here–this part of the country has been cushioned against the recession by a number of factors. I run into lots of pedicured ladies who lunch. I’m sure for some of them, life really is every bit as effortless as it looks. But I think for most there’s probably a lot more going on than meets the eye. I always get the impression that I’m a huge mess while life is a piece of cake for everyone around me.  I’ve had enough conversations with friends and acquaintances (in houses big and small) to know that I’m not alone, that everyone has her struggles, but somehow it just doesn’t sink in.  Until, over coffee at the kitchen table of a crumbling farmhouse, it does.


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