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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Face of Foreclosure

A house went into foreclosure in my neighborhood last week. It is the first one we know about. I never knew much about the man who owned the house except that he owned a Hummer, installed a swimming pool, had Grecian urns banking his driveway on both sides. He had full time lawn care and his grass and shrubs and trees were always immaculate. In the land of the upper middle class he seemed to be doing very well. His house hovered around seven hundred thousand.

The first sign of trouble was the For Sale by Owner signs that kept appearing. One week the sign would be in the middle of the yard then it would be by the curb. Then the sign with sticky letters would disappear and a Realtor sign would appear. That would last for a month and then the original sign would come back. There seemed to be indecision or desperation. Sometimes the signs just went away and we wall assumed he had given up on selling his house. But then they would come back and another realtor would take a stab and the whole cycle would start over again.
Then we noticed the For Sale sign by Owner was just laying up against one of the urns. It seemed a sort of casual bon-viant way to sell a house. If someone really wanted it then they would find the sign. Then one day two white nondescript trucks pulled up. They were in the shape of moving vans but with no logo. Sort of undercover moving vans. The trucks dieseled outside of his house all day and we saw men moving silently through the morning hours hauling furniture into the sides of the trucks. Then the trucks pulled away.

Garbage night is on Monday morning and we all noticed his cans weren't by the drive. The black Hummer came and went a few times and then we didn't see any activity at all at the house. No one could confirm or deny if in fact he and his family had moved away. The smoking gun came from mother nature. Our neighborhood used to be farm fields as most neighborhoods in Illinois take purchase on the fallow fields of an agrarian past. Slowly the weeds that had been dormant for over ten years under the reign of agent orange the lawn service had been administering. But then reality began to creep up through the fine Kentucky green.
The first dandelions came as early soldiers and then all sorts of crab grass and prairie flowers followed suit. It was amazing. Within two weeks the diagonal landscaper cut administered by zero turn mowers and men in tan uniforms had been replaced with the rangy ragged undergrowth of our indigenous flora and fauna--weeds. The weeds came on like a plague. The grass grew wild. The trees drooped under the lack of nitrogen. The whole lawn went to hell.
Errant trash blew across the front yard. A water bottle. A clear plastic package of mulch. Flyers. Old newspapers. One of the urns fell and cracked. The For Sale by Owner sign lay flat on it's back. His custom bricked drive became a smorgasbord of grass and sedge. The garbage cans remained against the garage. No cars were ever in the drive anymore. The house had turned into a shell. No human spirit transformed the rude elements of construction into a home anymore. Foreclosure had come to the hood.

Books by William Hazelgrove