Variations on our theme: Upstairs/downstairs, next door, down the street, around the world

Globe Across the HallAmong the benefits of doing journalism online are the ways readers expand and extend your story by adding their own.

Earlier this month, the Boston Globe Magazine published  my story about our across-the-hall living arrangement, and I wrote a Facebook post to encourage friends to take a look. (Original story also viewable here.)

Kevin Ransom, the first to comment on my Facebook post, noted that our arrangement represented a return to a centuries-long tradition. That got me thinking about how lucky we are to find ourselves in this position as a matter of choice as opposed to necessity.

Kasia Kietlinska, a friend I first met 36 years ago during a Solidarność convention in a hockey arena in Poland (she was one of Lech Wałęsa’s interpreters), described the arrangement that she and her husband, Tomek, worked out after emigrating to the U.S. At various intervals, their parents would spend six months with them in Grosse Pointe, Mi. and six months back on the Baltic coast of Poland.

A commenter on the Globe site described an apartment added to her home more than 15 years ago for their mother-in-law, noting:

I adore her and am so happy she is here with us. It also brings the extended family closer as we get to see them when they visit her. It can really be a fabulous decision.

That reminded me of similar plans we had 20 years ago to reconfigure our house in California to include my mom. She passed away before we could begin the renovations, but I wonder if that had something to do with how quickly we jumped at the chance to move across the hall from Kate and family.

Others mentioned grandparents living down the street, upstairs or downstairs, with one noting: “The rich memories still bring me comfort decades later.”

Carol grew up down the street from her grandmother, one of the most cherished relationships of her life.

Some readers pointed out that our arrangement is definitely not for them. As one put it:

I get along fine with my mother in law. Mostly because she lives 1500 miles away.

Along the same lines, another reader noted that the success of an arrangement like ours “depends on the people.” She added:

My parents considered buying the house next door to me. We did not tell them when it went on the market as I knew my life , and my children would no longer be my own with them next door.

Some Globe readers tracked down our Across the Hall site and added comments there. Debra Hall said she shares a two-family home with her daughter’s family, and said the church across Harvard Street from us has formed a group of grandparents in similar circumstances. We’re looking forward to connecting with them.

Kathy Shine Cain wrote:

Just read your essay “Near and Dear” in the Globe Magazine. Couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment for us—after two years of searching, and almost at the point when we felt it would never happen, my husband and I found a two-family home with our only daughter, her husband, and her two boys (2 1/2 and 5 1/2). We’ve heard the same comments from friends, and we’ve harbored the same concerns about maintaining our privacy. But the rich life that you describe in that piece is precisely what we look forward to once we’ve moved in. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

All of which got me thinking that readers of Across the Hall might enjoy hearing more from others exploring the ins and outs of multi-generational living. If that’s you, I hope you’ll consider writing a guest post for us. In the meantime, I’ll be knocking on the doors of people I know are living their own variation of across-the-hall.

First up, in the next day or so, we’ll hear from Chip Scanlan.


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