"There it is, Mommy!"

I motioned to the image on the computer screen. A real estate listing was displayed for my mother's childhood home. The price was close to a half-million dollars.

"Can you believe that your grandparents paid about $14,000 for that house over 40 years ago?" my mother said, and she sighed.

"I just hate that they are selling that house. But I have to remember that it's for Momma."

My mother drifted off down the hall, but I continued to scroll the Web site, reading the sales pitch.

"Just move in!"

"Well maintained!"

"Original trim and hardwood floors."

All I could think was that this was Ruby G.'s house, filled with so many happy memories, and now it was to be sold to the highest bidder. It was the end of an era for my family.

My grandmother moved from West Virginia to Washington in the 1930s. She and my grandfather moved into the Georgia Avenue-Petworth area in the 1950s. They settled into what was to become the family sanctuary.

Through the windows of the Federal-style row house on Quincy Street, my grandmother saw her family grow, while her neighborhood morphed from a haven for families into an urban nightmare. But her house remained an oasis on that Northwest block.

My grandmother doesn't know about the sale of her house. She has Alzheimer's now and lives her fragile life with her eldest daughter. The house became a liability and a money sponge, so Ruby G.'s offspring decided to sell -- a decision that produced mixed reviews and some unrest within the clan.

Ruby G. was left a widow in 1984. She was the matriarchal cornerstone of our family, a strong-willed woman who nurtured six children, 17 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren and cousins. Now an important link to her was about to be severed.

Her house was a domestic mecca for us when I was growing up. Family squabbles were left outside in favor of a good meal and the chance to bask in the glow of Ruby G.

Many District families face the same situation that my family is facing -- an elderly relative in need of care who owns property, the sale of which can help pay for that care.

The real estate market in the District is red-hot. Property values in predominantly black areas have gone sky-high as gentrification creeps onward. But behind every "For Sale" sign and smiling real estate agent is a chapter in a family's history.

So for my family, to grandmother's house we no longer will go. And for $450,900, a lucky new homeowner will own a piece of our souls.

-- Alesha Michelle Jones