The plans we’ve made
It’s raining, just slightly. We drove through worse on the way here. Besides, it’s good to look at a house in the rain. It puts the realtor on edge a bit — he can’t count on sunshine and a lovely view to cloud your judgement. Also, you can spot leaks. Of course, Kitty and I like rain, so we’re also glad to see the place in the lovely blue-grays of a misty evening, the air chilled and the light refracted in strange ways. Here, surrounded on all sides by 7 acres of old hardwoods and empty pasture, it’s nice. Later we’ll discover the mosquitoes feel the same way. Kitty and I, due to be married in three months, have been looking at houses for at least half a year. It’s not a traditional story — young couple gets married, buys house, has kids. We don’t have the money for that, haven’t settled on much besides each other and have another responsibility to handle first. Instead, we’re moving in with her father, going in together in a rather lopsided manner. Don will make the greater bulk of the down-payment and lend his 80 years of sterling credit to the loan. Kitty will add a little more to the payment and credit score and I… well, let’s say I don’t bring much to the table besides a third income. In the time we’ve been hunting, we’ve seen double-wides on dirt roads that neighbor churches with hand-painted signs, a small house with a garage and giant crack down one side, countless tiny dull little boxes. There was a 100-plus year-old plantation house in Climax, complete with ghost story, that Kitty and I fell in love with until we learned the wiring was too out of date to insure. Which brought us here, on this damp evening, to the last place I ever thought I’d consider living again: the old Short place, just outside Liberty, population 2,747. My hometown. It’s lovely, damn it all. We pull up and go through the usual exchanges with the realtor, but then I notice something different. There’s a table full of people inside, eating, drinking and laughing. I’ve heard of “staging” a house, but usually they mean with furniture. As it turns out, the home is being sold by some of the last people you’d expect to encounter here. After we’ve gotten the usual tour, the owner greets us and we get the full story — a family of world travelers, teachers, organic gardeners and DIY livestock butchers, they bought the place at the height of the market. Now, the parents have taken a teaching assignment in Kuwait, and in two weeks they’ll be a world away. Obviously, they want to move the house quickly. It’s a house with a history. Most residents of Liberty remember Judy Short and her salon. She ran it out of a small A-frame on this very property (according to the paperwork, the septic and well are still here). Her first daughter from a previous marriage worked with my own mother at a gas station. Judy and her husband Steve adopted 4-year-old Ashley, and renovated the brick house extensively, doubling it’s size and creating the home we’re walking through. It sounds like a good life. On December 14, 1997, the three Almanza brothers’ Pontiac crossed the center line just as the three Shorts came from the opposite direction on 49, the same highway I took to high school. No one lived. People in Liberty still call it Judy’s house, despite the decade that’s gone by. I wouldn’t mind. It’s not like I’m going to run a salon out of it, or build four more rooms, and the Lowrance name means something different than the Short in this town — one reason I had no plans of moving back. If I may speak like a motivational poster for a moment, though: That’s the thing about plans. You don’t plan for unexpected obligations. You don’t plan for a buyer’s market and Kuwait calling. You don’t plan for crossing the center line. We’ve got a lot of talking to do as we leave Judy’s house, Kitty and her father and I. I can see it in their eyes, though. This one was different. It was for me, too. Images of morning coffee and sunset walks flash through my head. I can stand moving back, just as Kitty and I can stand the long drive to work and sharing the space with another person. It begins to rain in earnest as we pull onto 49. It’s okay, though. We’ve driven through worse.
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