34 – constructio

My dad used to say all new couples move a couple of times before they settle in to a long term home. We certainly followed the rule. When M & I first married, we lived in half of an early to mid 1900’s duplex in the Broadmoor area of Jackson, MS. On graduating from law school we moved to a large two story, pale green house about a block off the beach in downtown Gulfport, MS. My professor and friend, Judge Mary Libby Payne let us live there for such a small amount I can’t remember it. There was a high school across the road, a christian science reading room next door, a warehouse behind, and a home for wayward alley cats below. Each night, a freight truck would arrive to unload at about 11:30. That would rouse the cats and the Hogues, and then just as the noise of the truck settled down and we all began to drift off again, the cats would start fighting under the house and depending on moods and such, the Hogues would have similar issues of grumpiness.

Once we had enough for a down payment we bought our very own little house down towards Biloxi, about 6 blocks off the beach. Being a happy young couple with no children, we enjoyed walking to the beach to watch when storms were coming in. The waves get choppy and the pelicans dive for the fish that come to the top. We would always begin our brisk walk back home as soon as either of us felt the first rain drop. Sometimes we got soaked and sometimes we didn’t, but it was good stuff either way.

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That’s where we lived when Dad died, and from there we moved to a little white, wood frame house on East German Lane in Conway, Arkansas. The bedroom was so small that once we assembled the full size bed in it, we had to climb over the foot of the bed to get in. We had a raccoon that lived under the bathtub and would scratch on the underside of it when you turned the light on or off. One day, it found its way through a hole somewhere under a cabinet and enjoyed the warmth of the cozy little home for an hour or three. We lived there as we raised the down payment for our own home again, and when we did, we moved to Keith Circle on the west side of Conway.

We were high class, living on a cul-de-sac, with a wooden privacy fence around the back yard. The neighbor’s kid would wake us up bright and early every Saturday morning by throwing a ball at the bricks on the other side of the wall from our headboard – over and over and over. The local gangs (6-11 years old) passed from house to house through our front yard, and sometimes back yard, until I realized they were often barefooted and began cultivating the prickly little “sticker” weeds in the lawn. That just earned me an anonymous letter in my mailbox informing me that my lawn was driving property values down. Given the fact that M talked me out of putting a letter in each box on the street explaining how their kids were the cause of any disappointing appraisal results, we moved again.

This time we settled into what we were certain would be the home in which we would entertain our grandchildren. By this time we had C, and L was on the way. On Baridon Street, we were three houses from Dave Ward drive and a block or two from the public assistance housing development. On the negative side, we were startled awake one night by the creak of someone coming through our back fence gate. I got up to check things out just in time to see a dark figure jump the back fence, leaving a trail of cell phone pieces through my yard. On the positive side, when Styx came to perform at the “Toad Suck Daze” festival, we could hear them singing “Lady,” as we went to sleep. Not as romantic as it sounds. We would hear gun shots once in while at night, and after a few of my criminal defense clients discovered where we lived and started showing up at night for advice, M decided it was time to move on.

At this point we had sufficient income to build a house. We bought a three acre lot outside of town where we wouldn’t be easily found, and began studying floor plans and designing a house. People say building a house will bring out the worst in a marriage – I say building a house will bring out the truth or essence of a marriage. We had no problems that I remember. She picked colors etc, except for my study, in which I had my way. We were both satisfied with this, and that’s where I sit as I type this.

While we were building, though, we were grateful to live in a house owned by her parents, as our Baridon house had sold before it even became publicly on the market. This house was small for the four of us, and with the Tourette’s type problems that started in law school having worsened by this time, I was a wreck for much of the stay there. M, being the compassionate woman she is, could see my issue and agreed to move some stuff around in what was a storage room, so that I could have a quiet place to sit and read and write. That helped. I was taking Haldol at the time by doctor’s orders for those symptoms, but that stuff puts a guy’s brain in a haze so it didn’t last long. At some point I decided I preferred the symptoms of whatever I had over the effects of the Haldol.

When we finally moved out toward Mount Vernon, Arkansas, each person in the family went quickly to our own rooms. I in my study, M in her sewing room, and each boy in their own bedrooms. We had three acres around us and we met in the middle in front of the wood burning fireplace each evening. Comfort at last. We traded gun shots for coyote howls and visiting felons for an occasional cow mooing at our back fence. As we have been here for 6-7 years now, we’ve added a pool and M has started to call this our own vacation destination. We didn’t even include a guestroom in the design.

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