One day, DH came home brimming with excitement. He didn’t like living in the cramped little house any more than I did and he’d been asking around. One of the tips sounded very interesting and he came to get DD and me to go check it out. We piled into the Peugeot and, with directions in hand, we sallied forth.
It wasn’t very far from where we were. We went down the highway another mile or so and took a right. There was the For Sale sign at the foot of a long winding driveway. The hill was steep. DH put the car in first (he called it “granny gear”) and here we went. The Peugeot labored but made it and we came to a clearing. We hadn’t called ahead to make an appointment to see the house. I was a bit uneasy about dropping in unannounced. We were preparing to turn around and leave when a couple came outside.
They were pleasant and looked to be in their 40s. After they invited us to get out, we introduced ourselves and found they were transplants from a couple of states away. They’d bought 40 acres and put an underground house smack-dab in the middle of it. We didn’t think twice when they invited us inside.
The house was built like a box within a box. The inside box was frame and 60’x40′. The outside box was three feet away from it on all sides with the front left open. The outside box was reinforced concrete. There was a layer of dirt on the roof and it was strong enough to drive a vehicle on it.
Inside the house was a kitchen on the South end with a 4’x8′ solid glass window at the end of the dining area and a smaller square window over the sink. A couple of steps down and we were in the utility room. It was almost as big as the kitchen and had shelves around three sides.
Next to the kitchen in the front of the house was the living room and the master bedroom wound up the row of rooms that had windows. And what windows! They were all 4’x8′ panes of glass, three to a set, with the center pane on a track so it would slide open. There was one set in the kitchen, two in the living room, and one in the master bedroom.
Behind the master bedroom was the master bath and a large walk-in closet. There was a little room that could either be used as a nursery or office opening off the living room. Going South from that was a bedroom with a bath that adjoined another bedroom. There was storage galore.
What totally took my breath away was the 60’x20′ greenhouse that stretched from the South end of the house to the North. The floor was concrete with drains and there was a double height of 4’x8′ panes of glass that went the length. There was a three foot frame foundation for the glass “wall” and each pane of glass was framed in cypress wood. Cypress covered all the exposed outer walls.
The drawback was it wasn’t finished. It was about 70% complete. To me, it was no big deal and DH was always up for a challenge. The biggest challenge was the money. Their asking price for the house and 40 acres was $60,000. We knew it was a steal but we couldn’t handle it. We thanked them for their time, took one more look around and left. I felt like I was leaving my heart behind when we made our way down the driveway.
All I could think about was that house just down the road. I was obsessed by it. I prayed. I agonized. I forgot to be careful what I prayed for because I just might end up getting it.
We’d given the owners our phone number and one day they called. They were desperate to move back to where they’d come from and were willing to come down by a third. Now they were offering it to us for $40,000. I was beside myself. I couldn’t stand living where we were with that gorgeous piece of property and an underground house waiting for us. I was convinced it was heaven sent—that it had really been built for us and those people were the Lord’s Carpenters.
The people DH was flying for were aware of what was going on and they loaned us the money for the down payment. The deal was DH could “fly it off” a little at a time. The monthly payments were $400. We signed the papers and were property owners.
Moving day wasn’t a chore for the first time in my life. I was sailing! I sang as I packed, loaded, hauled and unpacked. So what that I didn’t have a stove to cook on? There’d been a Jenn-Air complete with grill but they took it with them. I got a hot plate, a convection oven and a microwave. I was set.
The kitched was outfitted with beautiful cabinets and lots of them. It was the only room in the house that was finished. I put our big dining room table in the corner with the large window at one end and the triple window beside it. It didn’t even begin to fill the space.
I danced from one end of the house to the other, giddy with excitement. DH watched me and grinned that lopsided grin. One thing that had kind of dampened my spirits were the bathtubs. They seemed pitifully small in such a spacious place. Oh, well, everything couldn’t be perfect.
It had been a long day. I ran the tub full of water and climbed in. Mercy! The tub was big enough to drown a person! I don’t know how it was so misleading size-wise. It was shaped sort of like a kidney bean and was recessed into the wall so it was insulated by Mother Earth, herself. The water stayed warm for a long, long time and I luxuriated. I had been transported to another realm!
The walls in all the rooms but the kitchen were primed sheetrock and the floors were plywood. We had great plans for finishing everything but we were going to do it gradually. Eventually, there would be a path from the house to a dome-enclosed round swimming pool down below. For then, we had to content ourselves with hanging DH’s hammock he’d bought in Viet Nam between two of the many trees.
I wanted a garden and the roof was perfect. It was a little late in the season to plant but I managed to grow all the burpless cucumbers and cherry tomatoes we could eat.
The summer weather was hot and stifling outside but it was cool in the house. Even though it was still warm weather but we had to consider what we were going to do for heat that winter. It wouldn’t need much since it was underground but it would need something. We had a lifetime subscription to Mother Earth News and there was an ad in the back of one for Hearthstone Soapstone Stoves. We had an endless supply of wood right outside the front door (by the way, the front door opened outside from the South end of the greenhouse). We settled on one similar to this except the stone had a pinkish cast and the opening to load the firebox was on the right. We ordered it and now I had something else to be excited about!
There was one sobering thought. DD was getting to be school age. There was no way she could attend church school. The closest one was at least 30 miles away. I’d either have to register her with the public school system or teach her myself. We chose the latter. At one time, I’d tried taking courses at home from Home Study Institute and bombed but I had been the student. Now I’d be the teacher. I ordered the curriculum for the first grade and got the blessing of the Gulf States Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to be a satellite school under the auspices of the closest church school. We were assigned a counselor by HSI. She and I communicated by phone and snail mail (no e-mail then). One thing she told me was I should give the school a name. That would make it official. I thought of all sorts of fanciful titles for it but settled on plain old Hillside Day School. It sounded conservative and, perhaps, a little aristocratic.
The stove came and it took four men to get it into the house. It was set up next to the greenhouse wall in the living room where the former owners had their Ashley. Gorgeous! I’d also sprung for a soapstone beanpot to use to hydrate the air. We were living high on the hog!
Meanwhile, DH was being eaten alive by the knowledge he owed his folks and his uncle $25,000. He was working hard to keep everything up and had managed to put a little aside but it was a fraction of the total. The property that had been put up for his bond was to be released back to them. That was no problem. He’d shown up for his trial and he’d been cleared.
The weeks went by and DS2 was still with my mother, DS1 was trying hard to be a Big Man on Campus (and succeeding), DH was managing the airport and flying for a living and DD and I started school.
Our counselor stressed that we should have a set routine. Get up, eat breakfast, get dressed and start school every morning at a specific time. We had a schedule to follow. First, we’d pledge allegiance to a tiny flag sitting on the dining room table, then we’d have prayer and devotions, then prayer again over our Prayer Box. Anything we wanted/needed, we’d write on a paper and put it in a decorated box. After that, it was Bible class, then reading, spelling, math—the whole nine yards for a first grader. It was quite a change for someone who’d been “free as the lambs” to have so much structure. It was quite a change for her mother.
The pressure on us wasn’t even close to the pressure that was on DH.