All I can remember of that day is sitting in the front seat of a car. I can't recall the weather, the time of year, or even the model of the car. We were in the parking lot of Applebee's restaurant. I know that we had gone there to eat lunch but I can't recall the meal. I was seated behind the steering wheel and my husband was sitting next to me. In my memory, it seems that he was seated very close to me as if we were in a mini-compact car. My husband, my rock, my man of steel, was visibly upset, an emotional mess. I remember hugging him and telling him that it would be okay. I also remember thinking, 'Holy shit, what are we going to do?' as I rubbed his back, consoling him as I fought the urge to start crying myself.
It was the early nineties and the real estate market had come tumbling down all around us. My husband is a real estate investor, an entrepreneur. My husband builds houses, owns apartment buildings, fixes run-down properties and makes them livable again. He loves fixing the worst house on the block, to clean up a neighborhood. He provides housing for people of all socio-economic levels. He is a risk taker to some degree but always acts in a responsible manner. We had four children under the age of thirteen during this time period. Banks, who had wined us and dined us months earlier were now belly-up. The news was filled with doom and gloom. The FDIC became involved. Mortgage notes were being called, and property values were tanking. To say it was a scary time would be an understatement.
That particular memory of sitting in Applebee's parking lot, almost 18 years ago, has stayed with me through the years. My husband had been to see an attorney and it looked like the only way out of the situation would be to file bankruptcy. As we sat in the parking lot of Applebee's, my husband broke the news to me. I had no clue what that meant for us or our four children. I wasn't sure if we would lose our home. Where would we live? We were both scared, not knowing what lie ahead. But we put on a happy face for the sake of our kids. They were our sunshine, our hope, our future, our reason to get out of bed every morning. As it turned out we didn't end up filing bankruptcy but we did 'lose' three of our apartment buildings. The mortgage companies took them back. I was pretty angry with the entire banking industry and with the FDIC for a long time. The whole situation felt surreal. It took a while before my husband got back in the saddle again but he did and he worked hard to rebuild all that had come tumbling down. I am proud of the fact that as a couple we worked together through those uncertain times to get to a better place. It wasn't always easy but I never doubted that we would survive...together... as a family.
So now fast forward to January, 2012. The husband and I park our car in the very same parking lot. We walk, hand in hand, into the very same Applebee's restaurant. We had not ventured inside of this restaurant since that day back in the early 90's. The hostess seated us in a booth and the two of us just kept smiling at each other and at her. We couldn't stop grinning. It felt so surreal. You see, we had just left from a real estate closing where we had proudly bought back one of the apartment buildings which we had 'lost' almost twenty years ago. We own it again. There is a certain feeling of pride, of accomplishment, of success, of completeness. We have come full circle and it feels good.