Fortunate Friends: A Leap Across the Wealth Gap and Into a New Home

A friend as your mortgage holder? It seemed like one of those things you should never, ever do.

Let me tell you about my coat. It is a distinctive color, somewhere between lilac and lavender and gray. The cashmere is so light and soft it feels like a kitten, and other women stroke it instinctively. It is chic in a Paris-boutique-whose-name-I-forget way, my coat, with a hood, and toggle closures and French seams. I wear it only when conditions are perfect: clear skies, temperature ranging from forty-eight to sixty degrees.

I’m frequently asked where I got it, and sometimes I say, “Paris,” because that’s what the label says, but I shouldn’t really say “Paris,” because the coat is a hand-me-down, from the back of a friend’s closet. It’s a garment I could never afford to buy.

It’s not the only expensive gift my friend has given me. I did her a favor once and got a pricey handbag as thanks. She planned a wedding for me in her home, which got cancelled—another story, another time—and she sent me all the champagne she’d ordered, with a shrug. When, over the course of a couple of years, I had ticked off six or seven of the top life stressors on the Holmes and Rahe Scale and was in a terribly low place, this friend handed me a check big enough to pay off urgent medical bills and move my family from the beloved house I could no longer afford to a more manageable apartment.