Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It comes every year, January 13. We started celebrating it in 2012. One of my most favorite occasions to note on the calendar. Although it is rarely given the attention it deserves. In my wife’s words, it’s “a national holiday in our family.” January 13 is when we celebrate, but really, people can celebrate it any time. In fact it’s the personalized part I like most. Each household can have their own special date all to themselves.
Okay, what am I talking about? January 13 is the date we paid off our mortgage in full. The day we painted the door red and burned the mortgage. Bought the farm without buying the farm. Kicked the bank out of the basement. The day we became full owners of our own private Idaho.
It’s not an interesting date by itself. Just one of those days early in the year that get ignored while we think about the future. All the good holidays are over for quite awhile, and we begin our struggle with dark days, cold weather and some of the first real snow falls that we know will be a months long haul until Spring. It’s not born out of a sacred tradition, but it is a date of deliverance that I will never forget. Like a graduation date, holy communion or marriage; you are different afterward and it really can’t be taken away from you. And I do cherish it almost as much.
It does come from a similar place. Sacrifice. Work. Self denial. Hope in the face of doubt. A new freedom... The sense of before and after as a life event is there too. Becoming a different person, never to be the same, but without any outward sign of it. It just becomes something you carry with you. I don’t look any different though. There’s no badge. No title change like people referring to a doctor. But it’s there, if only as a silent reality.
But why does the date mean anything? Oh, it is just a wonderful way to revisit, re-experience some of that tingly excitement. When I go back to that time, all I could think about was the goal. Tracking it. Chasing it. Running it down like one of those packs of dogs chasing the Iditarod finish line. Scheduling the money transfer, and walking into the bank was like an out of body experience. The unreal feeling of unmortgaging our reality. Buying your own freedom can get to you.
So, on this nondescript January day, I remind myself of where I used to be: A very normal situation. Modest suburban house. With an acceptable loan against it. Modest lifestyle. A very normal everyday experience.
Because we decided to chase after something completely exotic, and drive toward an impossible goal, we flipped it all upside down. Being almost 20 years away from retirement age without a mortgage defies conventional wisdom. It’s not a sensible thing to strive for. A crazy dream to own it outright and the emotions that went with it. Finally making the dream come true. Grasping the brass ring. Not believing we were finally holding it right in our hands.
I never want to forget that day. I never want to forget that feeling.