Ruthie Stockman had promised herself she wouldn’t say anything, but as she watched the moving truck turn off the block and onto Avenue K, she couldn’t help it.

“There goes 30 years,” she said, hating herself as the words left her mouth, knowing how melodramatic she sounded.

Daniel looked wounded and sighed.

“This will be one of the great days of our life, Ruthie, you’ll look back at this as a turning point,” he said, as he stoically pulled out of their driveway for the last time, without turning back. The new people had made it clear that they wanted to start renovations as soon as the Stockmans were out,  we’re already past deadline, the whiny little wife had kept saying, willing the sellers out of the house with her eyes. Ruthie figured that somewhere, the new people had a spy, one of the neighbors who was already baking a fresh welcome cake — probably Goldring, who she’d never really gotten along with — calling them to say, “Okay, they finally left. It’s all yours.” Ruthie imagined that the small back porch, her happy place, with her big yellow-and-green-striped umbrella and hanging potted Boston ferns — which the wife had called “soooo cute” — would be destroyed by evening, on its way to being replaced by some massive cedar and glass multilevel deck. Daniel’s beloved little basement study with the maps and globes all over, which the hulking, sullen husband had barely looked at, would be gutted and made into a wine cellar, probably.

Daniel looked at her pleadingly as he turned onto Ocean Parkway, headed to the Verrazano Bridge and their new life. Please have a good attitude. Please play along. Please pretend that we’re really happy about this change, that it’s been a longtime dream of ours to leave Flatbush and move to Lakewood.

None of it was what Ruthie had wanted, but she had made peace with the idea of a new house. The house in Flatbush was where they’d made a life for themselves, raised their children, lived 32 years of their lives — but it had become a burden, that much was true. There was the mold problem and then the rotting floor and the leak and broken garage door, and with the kids out of the house, it felt huge. It had been a long time since Ruthie had really felt happy with it.

The Lakewood house was tiny, but it was brand new and theirs. Completely theirs. Being close to the grandchildren was exciting too, and, since Daniel had promised her she wouldn’t have to work, Ruthie was looking forward to actually helping her children. She would take little Sari to the doctor if need be, or babysit so Ariella and Mordy could go out to eat. She would be one of those young grandmothers and people would stop and look, trying to figure out if she was the mother or the grandmother.

And really, her kids kept telling her, Lakewood wasn’t even that yeshivish, she would love it.

Daniel was excited. With this move, 30 years of accumulated debt and failure could be shaken off like lint on a collar. They’d had the house, the big house they’d bought when Flatbush was still affordable and always, this has been Daniel’s exit plan.

When the haberdashery he’d so lovingly opened and operated had been forced to close and he’d sworn that solar panels were the next big thing and then found himself selling dental supplies — just temporarily — before he’d opened the discount furniture place, he’d relied on the house. “No one wants to invest in furniture right away,” he’d assured Ruthie. “We’re going to be like Ikea for frum people. Cheap, functional furniture, it’s a great investment. We’ll make the money back in no time and then start making real cash, maybe even open a branch in Monsey, who knows.”

But it turned out that people who didn’t want to invest in expensive furniture were quite happy with Ikea, and that business had gone sour and now there was only this one last thing to rely on. We’ll sell the house and pay off the bank and buy a small house in Lakewood and have enough money left over for me to start a new business. You’ll see, now I know what I’m good at, I’m older and smarter. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 711)