Gratitude Carries You through the Worst Storms of Life
It was Thanksgiving, 1983 when we learned the true meaning of the word gratitude. Only two years earlier we were living our dream, having just bought our first home, a newly constructed, modest three bedroom ranch with a large yard for our expanding family. My hard- working young husband had just been promoted to assistant manager of our local grocery store. We had just bought our first new family car. Life was simple, but good.
But our new home was constructed at the beginning of the Banking, and Savings and Loan crisis of the early 80’s. Due to congressional deregulation, Savings and Loans were allowed to make high risk loans to developers. Unknowingly, we had purchased our home from one such developer who sold them to buyers on contract. Within one year, we were to roll over the mortgage to a lender.
But the recession intervened in our plans. Our contract was signed at a low interest rate, but within the year, Banks, and Savings and Loans were failing at a rate even higher than the Great Depression. Unemployment shot up to a national high of 10.8% with some areas as high as 15-20%. Inflation had reached a startling 13.5%. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker tried to slow the rate of inflation by raising interest rates. The Federal Funds rate, which was about 11% in 1979, rose to 20% by June of 1981. By June of 1982, the prime interest rate had reached 21.5%.
We did not qualify at these rates, nor could we afford the payments. We were about to lose our home and our good credit, but we refused to give up our dreams. With 3 little ones, we had few options. Determined and full of idealism, we sold everything we owned, bought this land and a 1962 32 ft. Nomad Travel Trailer, a beauty by today’s vintage standards, with blonde cabinetry and pink full sized appliances, to live in while building. Our paycheck to paycheck built home was only partly finished when our idealism quickly turned to despair when my husband received a lay-off notice, and unable to afford our nearly paid off car, it was repossessed after missing just two payments. We were left with our equally vintage International Scout, but grateful for it just the same.
As Thanksgiving, 1983 approached, we were experiencing very stormy weather. We had just started the roofing when my husband was laid off, and giant tarps covered the rafters. But as the storms increased in fury, the tarps blew off in the wind. We bravely climbed onto the roof in gale force winds to try and secure them, but it was to no avail. Torrential rain flooded the hand milled floors forcing us to drill holes to release the standing water. We huddled inside our cozy trailer as the wind rocked it back and forth.
The Thanksgiving Day storm of 1983 was one for the record books. The wind gusts were recorded at 62 mph at Sea-Tac airport, but here in the foothills, the wind was even stronger. Thousands were without electricity with Thanksgiving Day turkeys half cooked in the oven, but because we were living self- sufficiently in our little trailer with propane fuel, we were able to enjoy the meal we splurged on with the last of our savings. As we ate our humble meal in our humble little trailer, we were grateful for so many things, despite our hardships. We had a roof over our heads, we had this wonderful meal, and we had each other and our health. After the storm cleared, we realized how truly lucky we were. During the night, a 100 ft. tree fell, missing our little trailer by mere feet. We had so much to be grateful for. We still have the holes in our floors to remind us.
Published in The News Tribune