I always went to North Carolina in mid-August to celebrate Mother’s birthday and this year was no different. She was turning a spry 95 and always put on the “big pot and the little ‘un” when she had company. I could count on some homemade vegetable soup, crackers and buttermilk when I’d arrive.
All the family members who could get there would gather for her birthday celebration. There were things she almost always got—like her favorite skin cream. I tended to get her practical gifts. Sometimes they didn’t go over too well and I’d get frustrated.
I’d stay for a week and we’d go places and do things. One of her favorite pastimes was shopping. She’d buy quantities of clothes and accessories for the house and then decide she didn’t want them. It would be up to my sisters to return them.
The day I was scheduled to come home would leave both of us crying. We’d hug and kiss and she would say, “I’ll see you at Homecoming.” (That was when we’d get together at the university the last week of October.) She’d be standing in the doorway, waving, and I’d wave from the car and toot “shave and a haircut” on the horn as I drove out to the highway. It would be hard to see through the tears.
This year, I had Things to Do. I was going to move but first I had to have a house.
A couple from the church decided they would come and scope out the situation. I took them to the prospective site and showed them where the house would sit. The male half gave me some advice (whether I wanted it or not) and they left. I still had no idea what to do or where to turn. I had to depend on the Lord to guide me. He didn’t let me down.
It was a convoluted maze of red tape. The first order of business was to have the property inspected and make sure the ground would “perk”. The inspector came out with his metal rod and poked it in the ground here and there. It was all a mystery to me but it had something to do with a septic tank and a field line. He pronounced it a good site and then he spied the existing septic tank. He said it was small and wouldn’t do for a three bedroom house. Too bad because that would save a lot of expense. I asked how about two bedrooms and an office? Yes, that would solve the problem. But what about the field line? I could get an easement from the neighbors to put it on their property. During one of my brother-in-law’s visits, he pointed out the location of the field line so I told the man. He congratulated me on being all set and left. One step out of the way.
Then I had to get someone with a bulldozer to come prepare the site. They came while I was at work and when I saw their handiwork, it wasn’t quite what I’d expected. There wasn’t much I could do about it, though.
One step after another came and went with more looming on the horizon. If I’d known all of it to begin with, I would have probably been intimidated to the point of giving up before I started.
There was a small storage shed on a concrete pad next to the lot where the house was to be. When the mover came out to see where the house was to be, he indicated there might be a problem getting by it. My neighbors helped me destroy it by burning it down. It was quite a blaze. I was surprised no one called the volunteer fire department.
The big day came when the “manufactured home” was to be brought and set into place. I took the day off work so I could observe the goings on. I surely couldn’t supervise the process because I didn’t know what it was supposed to be. I’d seen them rolling down the highways—two half houses all covered with heavy-duty plastic. Imagine my surprise when mine rolled up, naked to the world. The chandelier in the dining room was swinging back and forth in the speed-induced breeze. Anyone and everyone could see into my house. It was a good thing it wasn’t raining.
I was right. The ground hadn’t been prepared as well as it should have been but not to worry. The mover had anticipated that and brought along a small ‘dozer on a flatbed truck. There was a brawny fellow who operated it. He was shirtless and had muscles upon muscles under his suntanned skin. He would take a run at a pile of dirt and push it over the edge and the bulldozer would tip. He’d grab the roll bar at the top and swing back and forth. At first, I was apprehensive but then it got to be a show. He had quite an audience, too.
One half of the house was maneuvered into place but they were running out of daylight. The other half was parked on the property of the neighbors to the North and left until the next day. I prayed it wouldn’t rain.
It was a dry August, unlike the one we had this year. My father-in-law would have said we were having a “drowth”. I was more interested in my new-to-me house not getting wet, though, so I was thankful. My neighbor came over and we looked into my bathroom and I told him I’d forgotten it had two sinks. That would be one for me and one for Twinkle. He said his wife would be wanting to come use the big bathtub.
Next day, the men came back. They skillfully angled the second half and got it into place. Then came the jacking up and leveling everything. I was glad they knew what they were doing. Like pieces of a puzzle, the house was being put together. By and by, it was time to get the roof finished. That’s when the “drowth” was broken and it opened up and poured.
I stood in the kitchen where I was living and watched one of the men work his way along the peak of the roof, nailing on shingles. One by one, he got them down in the driving rain.
For several days after, the men came back and worked on the inside of the house. I slipped back and looked in once and saw that the wall in the living room was up. It wasn’t just like new but it was there!
There was one problem. I didn’t have any steps. I measured the distance from the threshold to the ground and went shopping. The local building supply place had a set of concrete steps that were just the right height. Yes, they’d deliver them and set them in place.
That afternoon, I went home and found they’d be set out on the ground nowhere near the front door. They were at least 15 feet away and heavy as lead. Now what was I to do?