Yesterday I wrote the beginning of this story. My sister called earlier today and I asked her what she remembered about the story. It wasn't the finishing of the house that Mom got the loan for; it was making the house into two apartments. Mom and the girls would live in one side and rent the other side out and then Mom would sell the apartments and pay Mr. Porter back. Also, it wasn't Pocatello, Idaho but Milford, Utah. So much for the facts as I knew them.
I will go back in a few days and correct the first part of this story. I also realize I've changed tenses in the two stories. I may correct that; I may not. In the meantime, here's the rest of the story. Remember, this is my attempt to write it in my mother's words. That's what writer's do; put words in people's mouths. Much of this I remember word for word from my darling mother but so many of the details are coming right out of my imagination--this is one of those times when it really is "Lynne's somewhat invented life," but it's my Mom's life I've invented. I somehow feel it's okay. Maybe she's here tonight, reading over my shoulder.
Here we go, part II.
I had the loan from Mr. Porter. I nearly danced home and when I got closer I ran. My hair came undone, I know I looked like a wild woman but I didn't care. I yelled and the girls came running. I swept them up in my arms and we twirled and twirled. They laughed and squealed. I tipped my head to the sky and whispered, "Thank you, Father. Thank you."
I put the girls down, we held hands and ran the rest of the way home, my purse dug into my side with every other step but I didn't care. My neighbor smiled and waved and then gave me the thumbs-up sign. She didn't have to ask. She knew I got the loan.
The girls and I walked through the house. "Here is where the wall will go, right down the middle. That side will belong to the other apartment and this side will be ours." They didn't understand, but they knew one thing: they had a Mom who wasn't walking the floor, worrying and fretting and being too distracted to read bedtime stories or play dolls with them or make Mickey Mouse pancakes with big ears. They had their old Mom back.
I got on the phone the very next day. I called contractors and lumber yards and appliance stores. I found a contractor who would let me help with the work so it wouldn't cost me as much. I learned how to knock out walls and hammer and screw things together.
I learned why you couldn't tear down some walls because they were bearing walls. I learned how to insulate so you couldn't hear conversation from one apartment to another. I learned how to tell if a wire was "hot" and why you had to hire an electrician and not do the wiring yourself. I learned that it was cheaper to put kitchen sinks together, one on one side of the new wall, the other on the other side. The same with the bathroom sinks and bathtubs. I learned why you didn't put water pipes against outside walls in this cold winter country.
I found that I had to tie my hair up with a dishcloth or it would be glued together with plaster by the end of the day. Plaster wasn't so good for the complexion either but I didn't care. Who was I trying to look good for anyway?
The girls were curious and got in everyone's way. I hired the neighbor to watch them. She didn't want to take money but she watched them for so many hours everyday I insisted. I knew I wouldn't be around to be her friend after the apartments were done. I hadn't told her. I couldn't. She had been so good to us.
I worked without rest. If the contractor didn't show up I called his wife.
"I have other jobs I have to do too, Mrs. Paschal. If I leave them without showing up I'll loose the job and I've got to keep everyone happy."
'Then let me know you won't be here and tell me what to do while you're at another job. That's reasonable, isn't it?"
"I guess so. Gads, woman, you've got my wife on my tail. 'You get over to that woman's house and help her out, Earl. You can't leave her hanging.'"
We laughed as he talked in a high-pitched voice. From then on he told me every time he wasn't coming the next day. He showed me what to do and I did it. Occasionally he had to re-do something, but not often.
I did all the painting. I learned it didn't pay to buy cheap paint. I leaned that about a lot of things. Buy the best and don't waste. Measure twice and cut once. The contractor was full of advice, which I tucked away in case I would ever need it again.
DeLynn came to help put the finishing touches on things. I was so happy to see her. She spoiled the kids, they needed spoiling, they deserved spoiling. We sat up late at night. Me, listening to all the things she hadn't put into letters. We held hands as we sat on the bed. I cried when she told me hard things she and my other siblings had gone through. Both of us laughed over the funny things her little girl had said, the mischief she got into.
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
I didn't have an answer. I was going to go home--home to family and then I would decide. But first we had to finish the kitchen in the other apartment. The appliances were being delivered the next day and then we were done.
We turned out the lights and laid in the dark. We wondered out loud why our lives hadn't turned out like we thought they would.
"I love you, sis. Thanks for coming."
I love you too. I hope this is hardest thing you'll have to ever face."
It wasn't. I'm glad I didn't know it then. There is wisdom in not knowing the future because in some instances there would be no future. Half of us would walk off a bridge somewhere, thinking we couldn't handle a troubling future when in real life we can handle it, one little bit at a time.
We were up early the next morning, making French toast and flinging bits of eggshells and bread crusts at each other. The kids watched, wide eyed. They'd never seen their mother like this, irresponsible, wasting food, deliberately making a mess. But it was a day for celebrating. By noon the project would be done. I could put a for sale sign up and hope for the best. Mr. Porter would be paid, I'd have cash in the bank and could get on with my life.
The appliance truck came at 9:00 AM on the dot, just like he'd promised. It was a small town and the contractor had the word out: If you didn't do as promised, Mrs. Paschal would call the wives. Everyone showed up on time.
The stove in the new apartment was beautiful, clean, not like the used one on our side. I put, "scrub the stove," on my mental list of things to do. The sink and cabinets and counters were already in. The fridge was unboxed and on the porch, ready to go in when the man said some frightening words.
"I don't think it will fit through the door." He took out a measuring tape. He measured the fridge. He measured the door opening.
"Nope. Won't go through."
"We'll take the door off. That's easy to do," I said.
"Well, yes, easy, but the fridge is too big to go through the door at any rate. It won't fit. Do you want me to take it back and bring a smaller one?"
I didn't want a smaller fridge. This one was perfect. It had a dent on one side at the bottom, the side that would be covered up with a cabinet. It was a bargain and heavenly days; I loved a bargain. Besides that, a smaller fridge just wouldn't do. And a smaller fridge would actually cost me more.
"What do you think," I asked DeLynn.
"Well, I don't know," she said. "It looks like it will fit to me."
"Ladies, look at this." He pulled out his measuring tape. He measured the fridge. "See here?" We looked. Then he measured the door opening. "See here? One eighth inch. There's no way I can get that fridge in with one eighth inch leeway. I'll have to take it back."
I looked at DeLynn. "We can do it," she mouthed behind his back, nodding her head.
"No, leave it here. If I change my mind I'll call."
"There'll be an extra charge if I have to take it back later."
I nodded. He tossed the cardboard in the truck, shaking his head and muttering to himself. He loaded his dolly, got in his truck, slammed the door and left. We watched until he was out of sight. Then we looked at the fridge and then looked at each other. She grimaced and shrugged. I shrugged too.
"Okay, then. We'll just "walk" it in and be done with it. Right? It might take a little bit of time but we can do it."
We took the door off and leaned it against the wall in the kitchen and then DeLynn and I "walked" the fridge. We walked it until noon. She was trapped in the new apartment so I went to the other side and made sandwiches and pushed them over the top of the fridge.
"Good thing the bathroom is functional," she said. We laughed and joked and walked the fridge until dinnertime.
The kids had wandered around all afternoon, making me hold them up to the kitchen window so they could wave at their Aunt Dee. They played in the dirt and played with rocks, they rocked their baby dolls and were as good as gold while their insane mother and equally insane Aunt walked and walked and walked a fridge that didn't want to be walked.
"I've got to go feed the kids."
"I know it. I'll be right here." She snorted. I snorted too and then we laughed. "What have we got ourselves into?" she said from the other side of the fridge. I didn't have an answer.
I went home and got the kids some dinner and then took her a plate and pushed it across the top of the fridge. I went back and got the kids ready for bed. She sat on the kitchen floor and ate and then waited. When the kids were all settled I came back and we walked and walked and walked that doggone fridge. At 2:00 AM we were done.
"I knew it could be done," she said dancing around the kitchen, swinging her hips. "What does that appliance man know, anyway?"
We laughed and hung on each other with fatigue. We walked the fridge into place, it took about two minutes, we plugged it in and then we stood back and looked at it. We both sighed at the same time in the same way. We leaned the door against the opening and went next door to bed. We laid in the dark.
"I'm sorry I said I thought the fridge would fit through the door."
I started to laugh. I couldn't help it. I tried to be quiet so I wouldn't wake the kids but the more I tried the harder I laughed. DeLynn laughed too.
"What will happen when this fridge dies on day and the owners have to replace it?"
"They will have to tip it over on its side and turn it into a couch because there's no way it's going out that door."
"It will be a 'cool’ couch.”
"One with shelves for holding books and pop and boxes of Kleenex."
"It will have its own light, for reading by."
"Easy to clean, just wipe it down."
We could hardly talk for laughing. The light went on in the hall.
"Uh oh, Pat's up," I whispered.
She stood in the door, rubbing her eyes. "You woke me up."
"Come here, baby," I opened my arms and she climbed in bed and snuggled down. "This is what it's all about, isn't it?"
"Yes," DeLynn said. "This is what it's all about."
And now, all these years later--sixty-seven years later--it's still true. It's about family. It’s about determination that makes all things possible, even moving a fridge through a door that's too doggoned small.