This is one in a series of articles
examining foreclosure in the September issue. See
The sprawling split-level in Hanover
Park was nearly empty when, without warning, the bank changed the
Off the bare basement family room was
the office where Dawn and Audrey Tonkinson had done their computer
homework and where their mom, Stacey, an elementary school teacher,
sometimes planned her lessons. In that room were boxes of the
girls' artwork and CDs loaded with a lifetime of memories -
the girls' dance recitals, swim meets, gymnastic competitions.
Those were the boxes the repo company
hauled out and threw away last February when it sent its wordless
message to Stacey and her girls that their time at home was up.
"That was really hard on the girls,"
says Tonkinson, 42. "It was like they lost a portion of their
memories. They were old enough to know they'd never get that
It's been a long, tough road since Dawn
and Audrey's dad lost his job in January
2007. As money woes mounted, he moved out and Stacey fell behind
on the $1,600 monthly mortgage. And then, last June the adjustable
rate mortgage jumped to $2,800.
Spotlight on Foreclosure
The bank wouldn't budge.
"Their position was strictly pay us
$2,800 a month or we'll take the house," she says. "Finally, I just
came to the point of 'OK, I guess you can take the house because I
can't afford to pay $2,800 a month.'"
Tonkinson didn't say anything to the
girls the day the sheriff delivered the foreclosure notice. They've
moved twice since last summer - first to a rental house just a
couple of blocks away and six months later to a townhome several
miles away in Hoffman Estates.
Tonkinson keeps the packing boxes
stacked up in the corner of the new basement just in case.
"When your house is foreclosed, your
kids lose their security," she says.
Starting from scratch has been
Doctors since have diagnosed one sister
with anxiety disorder and the other with depression. "The problems
may have been there before, but they came to the forefront when we
lost everything," Tonkinson says.
Through the spring, they all roused
before dawn and the girls spent breakfast with friends so Tonkinson
could get to work by 6:30 a.m. The refrigerator isn't as full of
food as it once was. Even though she pays $800 per month in health
care premiums, she has to stagger picking up the girls' meds across
Dawn, 14, and Audrey, 12, said goodbye
to friends at their private gymnastics club and transferred into
park district programs. Workers in their school found money for the
girls to go on field trips.
Through it all, Tonkinson says, the
family has managed to shun the shroud of shame that so often comes
with foreclosure. They've learned to untangle where they live from
their self worth.
Besides, it's happening to so many
people. At least eight houses within two blocks of their old house
in the Hanover Heights subdivision are empty after foreclosure.
Tonkinson has three friends who have lost their home and one who is
staring down the repo man.
"We can't be embarrassed about
something we had no control over. I work hard, I pay my taxes and I
take care of my family," she says. "You just pick up the pieces and
try to move forward."
Robyn Monaghan is a mother and long-time journalist.
See more of Robyn's stories here.
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