Occasionally something happens in our lives that can feel uncanny in its timing, even providential, when it precedes something unforeseen in the future. Although this is a tiny, unimportant event to anyone but me, I recently had such an experience and feel compelled to share.
Last October I noticed a little flag on my Messenger App indicating a message awaited. "Hello, we don't know each other, but . . ." it began and continued, ". . . my husband and I were the first owners of your house. The California-based writer went on to mention she'd been browsing on the Internet and had found a real estate listing in my community and had become curious if anyone was still living in the community whom she might remember. As with anyone's 'Covid-leisure,' where constraints on routine outside activities drive a person to spend a lot of time online, she located me--the current owner of, she went on to describe, her all-time favorite home.
We had several exchanges: she told me about milestone events that occurred in her family's life while living here; I told her what changes had been made by the two owners sandwiched between us. We exchanged a couple of photos of the interior and generally, over the course of a Saturday afternoon, had a delightful 'conversation.' The last thing she wrote, without any provocation, was that the flat cement parking slab in front of my home was deeded to my unit and ended by saying, "And don't let anyone ever tell you differently! It is NOT common property of the entire condominium association."
The area in question is an extra parking area level with my front door, making my townhouse fully accessible. Because my late husband and I imagined growing old here (indeed, one of us has done so), it was an appealing feature. I've always considered it part of my unit, so I thought little of her comment. Until, that is, three months later, when . . .
But wait . . . first I need to mention that parking in our community is, and always has been, in short supply. Each townhome owner has a two car garage, and another two spaces in the garage-adjoining driveway. Our street is too narrow to allow parallel parking. With life the way it is now--twenty-five years after the community was built--two things have changed. First, cars are bigger, so two in a garage can be a tight fit, and second, accumulation of material objects seems to be on the rise. As a result, many people need their garage space to store excess belongings, especially those with children. In 2021 more people are permanently parking in their driveways and overflow parking has become almost non-existent.
Early this month a heated dispute arose among my neighbors. What if a garage is a storage unit with no room for cars, and you acquire a third car? Then what? One idea was put forth: the parking areas that is basically in my front yard should be first-come, first-served parking area for anyone. After all, it belonged to the community, didn't it?
I have always shared the spot, whether it's to accommodate guests at neighbors' parties or visiting family with a car too big to fit in a driveway, a repairman working on a problem across the street, etc. I share it with anyone who asks, and try always say yes unless I am planning to use it myself for loading/unloading, for guests, etc. It is also the scene of all our all-community outdoor events, whether the annual potluck, summer-time Board meetings, or Covid-conversations when several neighbors bring chairs to the space to sit socially distanced and chat. But even when these events for the entire community have been staged there, I've always been asked, as a courtesy, if it's OK.
At one point I was confronted by a resident who told me the parking slab was NOT mine . . . never had been mine . . . and who did I think I was, anyway, to think Icould control the ONLY extra parking space in the community. "People don't have to ask your permission--they can use it whenever." That was one neighbor's strong opinion, at any rate.
Do I sound selfish? Probably. As a friendly and generally cooperative neighbor, I don't want to be a negative player in my community, but the thought of looking out my bedroom window and always see a vehicle parked just feet from my window, day and night, isn't appealing. It was my word against theirs . . . but how could I prove what I'd always assumed was true? And that's when I recalled the original owner's parting words on Messenger last October.
After a number of attempts prowling through online county property records, I found the original Statutory Warranty Deed to my townhouse condo, amended to include a description of the accessible parking area belonging exclusively my unit. Indeed (pun intended) that parking space belongs to me, and now I have proof. This is not to say I won't share it generously, but it does mean I'll have a say over having it available for my needs. Meanwhile, the community parking issues have been ameliorated, at least for now. Our neighborhood is settling back into a semblance of civility, which we all hope will continue. It's a great place to live and exceptionally peaceful, as a rule.
And that is the happy ending, for me, anyway, of this saga. I have proof of ownership through the statutory warranty deed filed in 1996. But if it had not been for that random communication by the original owner, and her unrelated shared tidbit about the parking pad, the outcome might have been very different. It feels providential.