Burning Down the House

In her efforts to create the perfect home, the writer set her marriage and her finances on fire. How a child of divorce finally healed old wounds

by Susan Gregory Thomas
Photograph: Dan Saelinger

My children love having their own rooms, love that our suburban-feeling city neighborhood is so safe and full of families that they can walk around the block on their own (though I spy on them anyway). The transition to a new city was traumatic, but we are now doing fine. Looking back, I know I’m the mom version of Oedipus: I committed every atrocity I’d spent my life trying to avoid. In my own misguided way, I tried to create the most secure of homes—and ended up with a shattered marriage and wrecked finances. Money does not heal old wounds or prevent new ones. Even so, the experience gifted me with a truer vision of what home actually means. I don’t need an open-plan kitchen; I just need to be solvent—for my family’ssense of safety, stability and comfort, which is to say, our happiness. We have everything we need. Everything that has to work does: heating, stove, fridge. More important, our house is cozy, warm, full of family photos and children’s artwork—it’s ours; we’re not its. Finally, between their dad’s house and mine, our children have all the home they need.

Susan Gregory Thomas is the author of In Spite of Everything: A Memoir.


Related: Marriage and Finance: The Naked Truth

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