For sheer price, the family home.

My grandfather, Jack (born Jakob) came to this country from a tiny shtetl in Poland with nothing. He was the youngest of 11. When he arrived in New York at age 5, two of his older brothers had already died. That was in 1920. When the stock market crashed, he was literally on the street corner, selling apples to help provide. That’s where he started.

After the war, Jack and his wife moved to Los Angeles. He opened up a store, selling military surplus. He worked long and hard and soon, he opened a second. And a third.

From there, he bought real estate here and there. When he wasn’t in the store, he was in a building, doing repairs. When my uncle David was old enough to help, he was doing repairs too. He was laying carpet at age 14. Jack’s kids all helped. David did the manual stuff and my mom did office stuff (bookkeeping and the like).

Jack had a reason for this...

He wanted his kids to have more than he had when they started off and, with luck, their kids would have more too.

Jack died back in 2011. He was 96 years old. He had seen his fair share of heartache in his years. He buried his daughter - my mom - when she died of lung cancer. And before that, he buried his grandson - my brother. He had a lot of pain in him, a lot of suffering.

And he provided for his family, as he had always done.

When he died, I had already moved to California to be closer to my remaining family. I was living in the Bay area and the market was beginning to boom. I had been living in a luxury rental 3 blocks from my uncle’s office. I worked for David as his office manager and as an associate attorney. Just has Jack worked David hard, David worked me hard. I took the chair out of my office because it was just taking up space. David used to cut carpet. Well, when a city-owned tree broke a sewer pipe, I, as managing attorney, was the one yelling at the various city agencies to get it fixed. I managed to get the firm reimbursed in two weeks’ time.

If something was broken, I’d fix it. Yeah, I’m a lawyer. But that doesn’t mean that I’m too good to take trash bags out at the end of the day after everyone is gone. It needs to get done. That’s something that Jack taught me and David as well. When David needed a new filing shelf system, I spent a couple of weekends going to hardware stores and figuring out how to do it. It was kind of kludgy but when it was done, David looked at me and said, “That’s how Jack would have done it.”

As I said, the market was booming. I was already paying through the nose for rent in San Francisco and another rent hike was on the way. So I asked around and decided, instead of renting, to buy in Oakland. I found a nice industrial studio loft in a converted creamery. The building was technically “distressed,” meaning that several units were in foreclosure. I got the last unit that was distressed at a bargain of a price. My down payment was my inheritance.

As apartments go, it was a hip little loft in an up-and-coming part of Oakland (Lake Merritt, aka, Lake Smell-It). A few months after moving in, I met a wonderful woman in, of all places, the Jezebel comment section. I shit you all not. We started off as a long-distance relationship. When she came to visit for the first time, we instantly hit it off. We were engaged within a year.

She decided that she wanted a family. Well a family in the Bay Area is a pricey proposition. I grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland, as did she, and it wasn’t hard to figure out that moving back to MoCo made the best financial sense. Not only that, but her family all lives here so we’d be close to them. Our kids would grow up close to their extended family.

We made a plan - sell the loft, get a cheap short-term rental, put our stuff in storage, and then buy a house in Maryland. Selling the loft was easy in that market. I had bought it for $200,000 and sold it 18 months later for $300,000 cash. Factoring in the mortgage payoff, I turned a 40% profit on it. Not only that, but, because we had gotten married, we qualified for an exemption and didn’t have to pay capital gains on the sale.

As luck would have it, my younger sister was getting married in Manassas, Virginia. So we went to the wedding and stayed an extra day to go house-hunting. We had narrowed down the candidates to about ten, with five of them being on the same street. We bought the first house we looked at.

It’s a 42 year-old Georgian Colonial sitting on 2 acres, with the backyard having a full acre fenced it. Beyond that, there’s a ravine with a creek running through it. Some of the trees in the back were on their way out when we bought it, so we cut them down, turned the wood into firewood, and I built raised beds over the stumps. I still trying to get things to grow in there.

Being Maryland, we get all of the seasons. The summers are hot and muggy and the winters are cold and wet. We have blossoms and flowers in the spring and leaves of every color and hue in the fall.

We bought a 4BR because we wanted kids. Our first child is 3 1/2 years old and our second just turned 6 weeks old today. When I bought the loft, I got a tiny chihuahua terrier mix who was just right for that point in my life. But my wife grew up with a sheepdog and a sheepdog is what she wanted. I promised to get her one and was able to make good on the promise.

I could have bought something stupid with the money. But that’s not what Jack wanted me to use it for. Instead, I used it to buy a place to raise my family. We live near my wife’s family and see them all frequently. The girls see their grandparents at least monthly. Twice a year, I take them to the place where my mother and my brother are buried to pay our respects. My daughter has my mother’s hair and my brother’s half-cocked smile. There’s a piece of them in our girls. I’m raising my kids in the place I was raised.

Maybe I don’t quite get the question. I don’t think of the house as an extravagance per se. It was the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought. But it’s also our home. It’s a place for me to continue Jack’s legacy. To continue my mom’s legacy. A place for me to, not start a family, but rather, to continue the family.