Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Rutabega & Turnip Club

I know I can't be the only one to see the ridiculousness here.

A preface:

My mom has a baby brother, the youngest in her big Catholic family, who lost his job in Michigan 2 years ago & moved down here to find work. He & his teenage daughter moved in with my mom. He found work. My mom wanted to buy a smaller house & saw that the market was going downhill. She decided to go ahead & buy a smaller house while my uncle would rent her house. She only charged him around half her payment. She saw that she wasn't going to get anywhere close to what she owed on her big house based on what was happening to us. She decided to let the house go back to the bank. Before she did, she did try to negotiate with the bank. She bought the house in 2004 for $220k & owed $173k. My uncle offered to buy it for $150k. The bank didn't take it. 

Yes, I have an affinity for rutabagas. I identify with them. I detest eating them, however. My love of the rutabaga comes from an analogy my dad made. In his Finnish culture, rutabagas are a staple, so there were many situations when I was a kid where I was sitting at the dining room table starring at a serving of them through teary eyes. A few times my dad slathered them with butter, trying to convince me they were great. Eventually, one evening he caved & they were never again put on my plate. He told me that as time went on, with us living separate lives for the most part of my childhood, rutabagas came to make him think of me. When I was in college, during one of our kitchen table talks, I launched into a diatribe on how rutabagas, turnips, cabbage & cauliflower were all in one smelly, gas-inducing, gross food category for me. My dad found this hilarious & told me that he couldn't help but think of the phrase, "You can't get blood from a turnip". He always saw it, as you're supposed to, as that the darned turnip just doesn't have it within itself. It's not being stubborn or selfish. The blood just ain't there. That's how I was about the rutabagas.  So the phrase became applicable to me, in some crazy mixed up way. When I would talk to my dad about my marriage & how Biggie was expecting something of me I just couldn't bring myself to do, my dad would say, "Well, Rutabeggie,..." We never had a talk about it. I knew what he meant. He got me.

A few weeks before my dad died, MiniMe came home with a photocopy of a definite root vegetable, colored with red & purple crayon, decorated with sequins. She was just over 2 years old at the time. When I asked her what it was she clearly replied, 
"Disco Rutabeggie"
I LOVED it. It gave me one of those smile in my belly & heart feelings only parents & grandparents can get. I was saving it to send to my dad because it was just too priceless. I knew he would put it up in his truck & drive all over the country smiling at his girls' girls' silliness. He died before I could send it.

But, back to the banks. 

Our former home is no longer ours. If you were to go to the county tax appraiser's website & search for our last name, the same staggering list of eight properties comes up, but it's not right. (I though about using the word correct here, but I opted for right. It's more fitting.) There were a few things left in the house that we hadn't gotten out yet that I still wanted. Like the 4.25hp self-propelled mower I bought when we bought our first house, that I used up through my sixth month of pregnancy, & that my dad had taken all apart to clean, tune up & sharpen the blade when he came to visit me. I wanted to give it to my uncle as a gift. It's gone. As are our chaise lounges, planters, a floor lamp. The bank took the stance that the house was abandoned, changed the locks, & put those things in the landfill. I've got half a mind to go dig them out. It's so stupid & wasteful & lazy. & not right.

My mom's former house is up for sale for $46,500.00. 

I've thought about how it makes me feel to have been through this experience. It just doesn't make any sense. It gets worse.

I have a possible opportunity for a job. Two incorporated cities here are seeking to hire qualified people to run their Neighborhood Stability Programs, which I am very qualified to do. These programs give down payment assistance & rehabilitation money to people buying bank-owned or foreclosed properties. Ridiculousness: Currently we qualify for reduced cost preschool for MiniMe for me to go back to work & to buy a house through the program. If I took the job, we no longer qualify for either. Um. Work & never see sweet girl or stay home, send her to school on the cheap, & get a new house?

So, what was wrong with our money? If the bank had taken our buyers' $334,000 for our old home a year back, wouldn't they be in better shape now? I can't help but wonder how much the attorney charged the bank for the whole foreclosure process. Maybe they would have needed all these tax dollars to help them out if my money was good enough. Wait a minute. I pay taxes. I'm confused. My money wasn't good enough for the bank to take to pay for our house last year, but my money that went to pay taxes is good enough? 

Can't wait to see how much they list our house for. That's sure to send me to the liquor store.

I'm starting a club. When I get my sewing machine up again & some of Biggie's pants hemmed I've decided I'm making up some Disco Rutabega applique t-shirts. If you want one, you have to pay the membership dues. (cost of bourbon & root beer to drink while making said shirt)


tapeandscissors said...

Dear HT-

I came upon your contribution to portraits of the economy while doing a bit of research on Lee County, Fla. I'm a photographer traveling across country doing a similar thing as that blog, but with more pictures, and strikingly similar title:

I'm interviewing people to tell personal stories of how individuals are dealing with the recession. Your story sounds serious, sadly iconic, but perhaps hopeful. I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind speaking with me when I come through Florida in a few days. Please email me at if you're interested. Thanks a lot!


tiggy said...

WOW @ that first comment! I hope you take him up on it.

I'm so sorry things are horrible for you at the moment. I think of you often.