by Jan Gerston
Elaine was a successful real estate broker and land developer. In addition to running a busy office of real estate agents and property managers, she had been recently widowed with the challenge of raising two teenaged children on her own. She was also my landlady for seven years.
Elaine was a “hands-on” landlady: despite her manicured nails and elegant coiffure, she would spend a hard day cleaning the duplex next to mine each time a tenant moved out. Several times I found her outside doing yard work at the duplex adjoining mine. Then it was my turn to move.
Returning to clean an empty rental property after your furniture has been moved out is one of the more unpleasant moving tasks. One is in transition between the former and the future parts of one’s life.
It was a few weeks before Christmas, all my worldly goods were in storage, and my life was in upheaval. I had lost my job and was about to embark upon a somewhat risky adventure — a long-held dream. After cleaning, I dreaded the inevitable long wait at the post office to mail out my Christmas gifts.
When I arrived back at the duplex with cleaning supplies, the technicians working to rehabilitate the kitchen cabinets were rude and unpleasant, adding to the chore. I was exhausted from packing and moving, uncertain about my future, and already missing my friends and all that was familiar. Elaine came to check on the place and found me scrubbing a stained floor without effect.
Because of some water damage and the usual wear and tear, I did not expect my cleaning deposit to be returned. Plus, when signing my lease I had agreed to have the carpets professionally cleaned after I moved out. I was embarrassed at the condition of my place, but instead of showing the disappointment she must have felt, Elaine just took charge.
She offered to ship my packages, saying that if I got in line at the post office, I’d be stuck there all day, delaying my departure. She said she would arrange to have the carpets cleaned after I left. She seemed to forgive me for the water damage. She returned my entire cleaning deposit.
I was overcome with emotion and could not speak for several minutes. Sometimes all it takes to release a big burden of pent-up emotion is the kindness of one stranger. In a situation in which she could have been brusque, this hard-working businesswoman showed compassion as one of her many tenants.
She assessed my situation and set about immediately trying to make it better, despite the additional load it placed on her. She lightened the daunting workload I faced in moving.
I was able to leave town with a light heart and a positive attitude — due to the kindness of my landlady.