Continued from A Sunday Drive

On Monday morning, mom met with Mr. Dever, whom she’d wired earnest money to for the house. Mr. Dever escorted us to the house and opened the door. Oh my, the excitement. I would have my very own room! Joan would, too! The stairs were magnificent. There was also a dark, scary staircase that lead to the basement which had a fireplace. But it smelled musty down there and I wasn’t too crazy about it. Mom wasn’t too crazy about the décor throughout the house which consisted of wallpaper, wallpaper, and more wallpaper…all in different colors and patterns with huge swirly flowers—even different patterned wallpaper in the same room. But Mr. Dever pointed out that wallpaper could be stripped or painted over. I think we were all delighted by the possibilities of this, our first house.

And so began our new life. A life that for me seemed care-free and full of wonder. A life that for mother was the first step towards her dream of becoming a rancher. A life that for Joan substituted pets of every size and shape for the love and adoration of her grandfather and the incessant nagging of a sick and cranky grandmother.

My small hand no longer clutched in the nervous paw of an adult each time I stepped out the door, I expanded into my new freedom. I flew up and down the stairs like a marathon runner training for hills. I was allowed to enter and exit the house whenever I liked, as long as I didn’t let the door slam behind me. I had the run of our yard but was still forbidden to go further without prior approval. We spent the summer exploring our new terrain, meeting the neighbors, and fixing up and painting our new home. It was a big house with tall ceilings, and it bore the scars of multiple make-overs. Mother came to rue the previous owner, who was, coincidently, the high school shop teacher and who had muddled nearly everything he’d touched in that house. Beautifully carved wooden moldings had been rudely painted over and, on some doorways—but not all—stripped away. The house had been re-wired, as mother would come to find out—incorrectly. The plumbing had been reworked and misrouted.

So during that summer of drop cloths, paint brushes and rollers, and paint in the eye, mother became the star client of the electrician down the street and of the plumber, Mr. Tracy. It never occurred to me to wonder about the frequent visits of the plumber, because it seemed that our old house was just a bit of a lemon.