Everywhere we looked, there were Moms with large bellies growing.   Mary Ann felt right at home.  It could not have been the water.  She had come from Ft. Wayne already pregnant.  Whatever it was, the babies popped out one after another, mostly boys.  The day before Micah was born, we had just come from the doctor’s office.  He said that she was already dilated some and would have the baby any time.  I was driving toward home, when to my horror, the engine stopped running.  We had run out of gas.  I don’t remember what Mary Ann said, but some things are better not to know.   Micah arrived the next day, September 7.   I have to admit that I was mightily irritated when I was told that I would have to leave now and go to the waiting room — and awful place with magazines from the 50’s.  I had been in the Delivery room when Lisa was born.  At Research Hospital, the rules changed concerning that issue two weeks after Micah was born.  I can remember taking Lisa with me to the street outside the hospital so that she could wave to her Mom.  She was a little over three years old at the time.  Mary Ann often lamented the timing of having both kids in the heat of summer in hot climates.  It just dawned on me, she may have been blaming me for that!

Then there was the house.  We looked mostly on the Kansas side, in Johnson County, since that was where the church was located.  After a while, nothing seemed to ring our chimes.  There was one possibility, but it was a little over the range that had been suggested to us based on my salary.  Then the realtor said, “We can look at the old house on the Missouri side.” 

Understand that the Missouri side meant a school system that had a typically bad reputation for quality as a city school district.  The Missouri side was more varied racially.  Johnson County was much less varied ethnically.   Both of us appreciated the older feel and ethnic variety of the Missouri side, but mostly, we just fell in love with the house the first time we saw it.   We bought it in 1972 for $22,500.

We had both grown up in older homes.  The “Old House” as she called it, was a two story shake sided house built in 1926.  The developer built to match the topography, leaving trees, curving streets around the hill.  The trees were all tall and stately.  There was a large bed of irises in full bloom.  The lilac bush was hanging with heavy clusters of blossoms filling the air with their scent.  There was the largest pussy willow bush/tree I have ever seen.  There was a spectacular Silver Weeping Birch in the front yard.  Each house in the neighborhood differed from the rest. 

There was a 25 foot long living room with a fire place — french doors to a side porch.  The dining room had a huge hand painted scene that blended with the wallpaper.  It was just an outline and was muted enough not to be distracting.  The Master bedroom was 18 feet long.  with a full bath and walk-in closet.  There were two other bedrooms, much smaller.  The house had a second full bath upstairs and a half bath in the breakfast room downstairs.  The kitchen was quaint, but there was barely room for the fridge.  There was a detached garage with a basketball hoop on the front of it.  Mary Ann loved that there was a basketball hoop out there.   There was something about being able to shoot hoops that she liked. 

The old stone basement had a little water in it at times, but it was no major problem.  There were some very entertaining camel back or cave crickets in the basement.  The house was solid as a rock.  It had shifted as much as it was going to shift decades earlier.  The plaster in a couple of ceilings was in bad shape, but both were repaired for about a hundred dollars.

Early on we remodeled the kitchen just a little, taking the wall to the breakfast room out, putting in sliding glass doors and adding a deck.  Those changes allowed much more space in the kitchen area.  We removed five layers of wallpaper from the walls, patched and sanded.  The walls were in almost perfect shape.  We heard about a fellow who would refinish wood floors.  We tore up the wall to wall carpets and found a beautiful white oak floor with red oak stairs. 

We enclosed the side porch into a multipurpose space.  A parishioner who was very skilled as a carpenter did much of the work, trading labor with me.  Dick did the carpentry for me and I helped him on his Mother’s farm.  At that time his labor would have been $16 an hour, and farm hand more like $3 an hour labor.  It sounds like a good deal at first glance.  Have you ever put up hay in 94 degree weather?  If you have, you know whereof I speak.  I almost died!  Well, maybe not quite that bad. 

Mary Ann made curtains and always had an eye for color.  The house was wonderful.  We felt very much at home there.  Mary Ann put in a little garden near the garage and used branches from the pussy willow for stakes at the ends of the rows.  The garden did not do well, the stakes thrived.  We had little pussy willows growing at the end of each row.   There was a tiny oak tree sapling that sprouted in that garden a few feet from the garage.  Mary Ann refused to let me pull it out.  I carefully explained that it was too close to the garage.  We drove by that house a couple of years ago.  In the intervening thirty some years it has grown into a tall and perfectly shaped oak tree.  The Silver Maple saplings we planted in the front yard had grown from the seeds of the neighbor’s tree.  When we went by that same time, they were huge trees.  The Monkey Grass we brought from Ron and June’s front yard in Memphis decades ago is still covering the terrace. 

I remember Jack, next door.  He was a Great Dane who was so tall that when he got curious and jumped up, his head would be above the top of the six foot privacy fence.  When he went back down the air would catch his ears and they would fly up, looking very silly.  Of course, I fed the birds and squirrels there just as I do now.  If I dared to sit out on the deck too long, interfering with the squirrels eating the olives from the Russian olive tree, one of the squirrels would find a branch right over my head and drop squirrel turds on me.  His aim was remarkable.  We had brought ferns and Jack-in-the-pulpit and wild phlox plants from my folk’s place in the country in Northern Illinois and planted them on the north side of the house in the back yard.  They thrived there for all fifteen years. 

Near the end of the fifteen years there, Mary Ann and I spent three weeks painting the outside of that shake sided house.  We scraped, primed, put on two coats of paint in three colors on that two story house.  Mary Ann did the lower story and I did the upper story.  I also scraped, primed and painted the 22 windows (all 6 panes over one). 

I thought I would tell the story of that house in one post before going on to our lives during that time.  By the way, that house for which we paid $22,500 in 1972 was on the market in 2007 or 8, listing for $310,000 — location, location, location.  

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