Monday, November 20, 2006

Nov. 20, 2006: Monday Memory: First House, First Car


Randy and I were married at the end of March. In February, I was living at home in NY with my parents, and he was living with a friend in Johnson City, TN, where we would be married. In that month before our wedding, he was charged with finding us a place to live. This is what he found: a 3-bedroom house on Johnson City's Tree Streets (we would never have looked anywhere else) for a whopping $175/month. The oven didn't work, the pipes burst, the back porch was falling off, it needed paint everywhere, and the roof leaked, but we loved it. It had definite potential. He was very nervous about showing this house to my parents, imagining that they would be appalled that their daughter would be living in such squalor. But my parents were undaunted and in fact were all smiles, remembering their own first house, not unlike this one.

We used to fantasize about what we could do with that house if we had money and if we were owners rather than renters. We'd shine up the hardwood floors, knock out a couple of walls, and fix the fireplaces. The best part of the house was its huge front porch, which was a gathering place for all sorts of people. The Tree Streets were the place to live back then: six streets of old family houses with big front porches interspersed with fraternities and apartment houses, just a few blocks away from the university where Randy was finishing his bachelor's degree. All our friends either lived there on the Tree Streets or were still in college 5 miles away at Milligan, so our house was always hopping. We never knew who we might find in our living room when we came home from work or school, and that's how we liked it.

But when our 6-month lease was up, we moved a few blocks down Poplar Street to a nicer apartment. Six months is long enough to use a toaster-over for baking, and we longed for showers instead of baths. The house remained unrented, though not vacant. A year or so later, it suffered fire damage when a homeless person tried to use the fireplace. A couple of years after that, that house and its twin sister next door sold and have been renovated. We drive past every time we go to Johnson City. Maybe someday we'll work up the courage to ask if we can see the inside.

The car was given to us by Randy's grandfather. I used to drive that giant Impala to work every day, fearing for my life and feeling like a midget in a submarine. Like the house, the car had a leaky roof and a broken heater.

I'm not sure I ever imagined the day would come when we'd have a van and our own house, but starting from scratch sure does make today's treasures sweeter.

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