There was a family I once knew. Mom, dad, and three delightful young children lived in a small home they rented in a really rotten part of our town. It wasn’t rotten because it was poor. No, this part of town was poor because its inhabitants lived by rotten values. These five beautiful people made up one of the very few intact, functional families in that neighborhood where fatherlessness was the rule. Of the men to be seen, almost none were working or married.
My friends worked very hard; dad devoted himself to his job all day and studied accounting at night. Mom fed her children both body and soul, nourishing them and educating them with facts and morals while providing a warm nurturing home for her husband.
Then, eventually one day—a breakthrough! Dad’s employer, rewarding years of diligence, dedication and integrity, allowed him to participate on favorable terms in the company’s initial public offering. From then on their financial fortunes soared. After a few years, the family moved into a large and comfortable home in the most prestigious suburb of town.
Each of the children, now young teenagers, was given their own room. I remember their mother telling me that during their first few weeks in the new house, she’d find all her children sleeping in one room every morning. They were close siblings and instinctively drifted together as they were unaccustomed to being alone in a big empty room.
That was what mom told me. What dad told me was much more surprising. He went right back to the old neighborhood and made the owner of their old house an offer he couldn’t refuse. He then put the house up for rent at below-market with one proviso: for one night each year, his family could move back into the house while the renters were put up in a hotel.
Sure enough, I saw it with my own eyes. Once each year, on the anniversary of the date they moved out of the little old house, they moved right back in. Clutching their sleeping bags and blankets, the family drove across town. Dad parked his car right there on the street where he used to park every night for so many years. The five of them slowly walked up the short concrete pathway, mounted the steps to the front door and went in.
After a plain sandwich supper eaten while they sat on the floor of the living room, they unrolled their sleeping bags right there on the carpet and spent a weird and uncomfortable night. The next morning, they arose and without much conversation, each wrapped in his own thoughts, the family returned to its lovely new house. The slightly heavy atmosphere lasted until they walked through their elegant front door whereupon a happy bedlam ensued.
Let me have dad explain in his own words why he led his family on this bizarre annual ritual.