Joanne Ramos

I Was Scared to Put Down Roots—Until My Family’s Dream Home Came Along

A real estate commitment phobe, Joanne Ramos was happy to rent in case the next thing came along. Then the perfect listing did.

FOR MANY YEARS, my husband dreamed of owning a house in the countryside for weekend getaways. He’s from North Carolina, and I grew up in Wisconsin—and while we both love living in New York City, we often long for the renewal of the outdoors. Over the decade and a half of our marriage, my husband and I have rented an assortment of temporary refuges in rural New York and Connecticut: houses next to lakes, cabins in the woods, modern constructions of cement and glass, and a plum-colored Victorian that smelled of cat litter and incense.

Every so often, over the years, my husband has approached me, trying to mask his excitement: “I found a house for sale in our budget and—”

Before he could continue, my jaws would clench, a visceral reaction to the thought of homeownership, which seemed so overwhelmingly… permanent. I liked renting: It was low-stakes and low-commitment.

I’ve always felt physically untethered. I was born in the Philippines, and my family moved to Wisconsin when I was 6. And while I spent the rest of my childhood there, in a small city on the coast of Lake Michigan, I always knew I would leave. My parents raised me, as many immigrant parents raise their children, to “make it” in the world—wherever that would take me. They encouraged me to apply to an Ivy League university out east, even though it meant they’d have to shovel deep into their savings and I’d take on debt. They cheered my moves to New York City and Boston and London for various jobs, even as my successes guaranteed I’d make a life far from them.

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