Four Generations Under One Roof

Four Generations Under One Roof

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There are four generations of my family members living under one roof right now. I’m a 29-year-old woman who recently moved back into my grandmother’s house and I can honestly say I’m glad about the transition.

I know for most people my age this would be devastating, so let me assure you I haven’t always felt thrilled with the prospect of moving back home. Two years ago, I moved in with my grandmother to save up some money and I couldn’t stand it. I was there for five months — long enough for me to gather enough money to move into my own apartment. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I kind of hated living at my grandmother’s house at the time. It was so hard to live by her rules. For example, one morning she woke me up at 7 a.m. and told me to get a broom to sweep the dust bunnies from under the bed! Dust bunnies? Dude, it was 7 a.m.! Whenever I went out, I could feel my grandmother’s judgmental eyes peering right at me. I was 29, for God’s sake! What’s wrong with going out every once in a while?

My grandma’s house is located in the boonies of Richmond (Wildcat Canyon), which made it extremely difficult to get to work in San Francisco. It cost more money and took twice as long to get home.

In December 2007, I got my own apartment in Richmond and lived devoid of grandma’s strict rules. My mom moved in with my son and I, because she was jobless at the time and didn’t want to live with my grandmother without being able to contribute something. Living in my own apartment was totally different. I could walk to BART from where I lived, which made it easier for me to get around. My mom would pick my son up from school and bring him home and feed him before I got home, which was extremely helpful on nights when I worked late. Not to mention I had more freedom to come and go without all the harsh criticism and judgment.

Things got tough last year when my son’s father lost his job. We are close and I could always depend on him to help me out with bills and take our son when I needed a break. Without warning, the nonprofit he was working for laid nearly everyone off because they lost funding. As a result, my son, who was insured through his father's employer, lost his medical coverage. I had a job but I wasn’t making enough money to pay for my son's medical coverage at a cost of $230 per month plus rent $1200, plus childcare $750 a month and the litany of other bills -- student loans, phone bill, gas, BART, laundry etc.

After much deliberation, we recently moved back in with grandma this past December.

Things are different this time around. I’ve had time over this past year to appreciate my grandmother and her house. My grandmother is a smart woman who, back in the 1960s, was the first black head nurse at Riverside Hospital in Richmond. She and her husband bought a house in the Richmond hills--despite the racism, scrutiny and downright stupidity they endured.

During the following two decades, my grandmother bought two more properties with the help of her two sons. Property ownership is somewhat unusual among the black people I know. Most people I know live in apartments. My grandmother, on the other hand, bought her own property and helped her sons and other family members buy. My parents bought a house with my grandmother’s help by the time I was 7.

Looking back, I’ve realized my mother and grandmother set the bar high for me. My grandmother was a head nurse at a time when black women were just starting to get menial jobs. My mom went to collage and has her a master's degree in theology. As an adult with my own child, I’ve realized that I value home ownership so much because of my grandmother. Home ownership is more than just peace of mind for yourself, it can help protect family members who need a place to stay when times get hard. That is worth far more to me than any temporary loss of freedom I am experiencing living under her roof.

Since we’ve moved back in, I’m most worried about the relationship between my mom and grandmother. I think being in close quarters has made us all learn to deal with one another a little better but old wounds run deep. My mom recently started working, which is good because she’s not in the house all the time, but I hope my mom and grandmother will eventually take the time to really get at the root of their issues.

As for me, I have a whole new respect for my grandmother and a whole lot of personal goals that living with her will help me attain. I want to buy a house of my own in the next two years. To do this, I am saving 50 percent of every paycheck in order to come up with a decent down payment. I’ve also started researching first-time homeowners programs and asked my grandmother for her advice. I think this has brought us closer because now she sees I’m not just trying to live with her indefinitely; she sees that I have some of the same goal she had when she was young. Grandma has even eased up a little with her strict behavior. Let's just say she doesn’t wake me up at 7 in the morning any more.