Thursday, April 14, 2011

The American Dream

Recently my parents did something completely awesome. They paid off their house. They have succeeded at the all-American dream and are full out, deed in hand, home owners. It really is an awesome thing. The house is not the one that my parents live in now, but where my sister and her family live.

It got me thinking about that house. The house is one of my parents proudest accomplishments. And not just because they have paid it off. No its a great accomplishment because they built it with their own 2 hands.

Back in the late 80's a cousin of my Mom's told her about a program that helped low-income families own a home. In a small town about 30 miles away from our hometown there was a project that sold houses at a very low price. The catch? You had to build it yourself. Sweat-equity they called it. I am sure hundreds applied. And after months of waiting we found out that we had gotten a lot. And not just us, but my Tia Mary & Tio Miguel had also got a lot. And not just any spot, but the lot right next door to ours!

This is how the program worked. They grouped the new homeowners into groups of 10 families. We were in Group #5. So we had to wait until groups 1-4 were finished building and then the work began. All the supplies were provided as well as a Foreman who would guide everyone in the building. All 10 families worked on all 10 homes. When the foundation was poured, all 10 foundations were poured.

It took about 10 months to build all 10 homes in Group 5. During those 10 months my parents sacrificed every weekend and sometimes weekday evenings. At the time I was about 12, Ouie was about 9 and Elaine was about 4. All my Tia's and Tio's and Grandparents took turns take care of the 3 of us every weekend. To us we were so annoyed by this and there seemed to be no end. In reality it was my parents really sacrificing and putting in so much hard work spending every weekend for 10 months, BUILDING US A HOUSE!

Back then I was NOT happy about this move. I did not want to leave the only place I knew. I had most of my family close by and there was the whole school situation. I had gone to the same small school with the same 28 people since kindergarten. We were going to be moving the summer before my 8th grade year. 8th grade was the best year. After 8 long years you were finally at the top of the food chain. There was the big 8th grade trip to Anacapa Island and of course graduation! The thought of missing all that put my angry teen aged-ness to an all time high. I hated this new house. I hated this new town. I was sick of getting up early every weekend.

We eventually come to an agreement. I would not miss my 8th grade year. I was going to get to graduate with my class. My emo-ness went away and my nervousness and worries moved on to the following year where I would have to go to a new high school in a new town where I wouldn't know anyone.

My parents did everything from framing, windows, stucco. They poured their hearts and sweat into this house. Yes the term sweat-equity was right on. I even remember some morning talk show did a story on the project.

We would get to go once in a while to see the progress on the house. We would walk the framed area and my parents would point out the rooms. "Here's our kitchen. And Cari and Elaine will share this room. And Liss this will be your room.". It was hard to imagine that these wooden frames would every look like a real house.

It must have been such an amazing process to watch a house come up from nothing. Eventually I was able to really see what our new home would look like.

The stucco went on and next was paint. There was still so much to do but with all the dangerous stuff out of the way we were able to go more often and we were quickly put to work too.

Here is me circa 1990 painting my door. This bedroom was mine, then it was Cari's, then it was Cari and Chone's. Then it was Elaine's. And today Lili and Felix call it home.

We have an end lot and a very long and curvy driveway. We can fit quite a bit of cars on this thing.

Today my parents own this house free and clear. This must be a wonderful feeling. One Joey and I may feel in about 23 years. But to own a home that your build with your bare hands must feel even better. Our move to this house ended up being one of the best things for me. That high school I was so afraid of ended up being 4 of some of  the greatest years of my life. I met friends there that are still close and important in my life.

Now 21 years later I am finally getting around to this. Thank you Mom and Pops. Thank for sacrificing your time for 10 months to build us a home. I will always be grateful to you for providing us with a beautiful home where we felt safe and secure. One that we grew up in, that we made some awesome memories in and one we continue to enjoy with the kids parties and other celebrations.


  1. This is a very touching post. I had no idea that was why your family made the move (BTW - VERY happy you did so!).

    My family did something similar. We always lived in MP, but moved from the track homes to 7 acres of land. My dad build their house, and like you, I can't even begin to count how many evenings and weekends we all sacrificed to finish that project.

    And, like you, my appreciation grew in unmeasurable amounts as soon as we purchased our first home.

  2. What a wonderful post. I already realized what great parents you had, but this post is a terrific tribute.

  3. Wow. That's some commitment to home ownership. Great story!


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