NOTICE: Dad was right
Going through the 2021 calendar, wondering where has gone this year, as well as all the other years, I realized that we had missed an important milestone for the family.
Fifty years ago, last August, Dad first drove the Pontiac station wagon on the dirt road to our home in Arkansas. I remember the headlights shining on the facade of the stone house, revealing a structure so much smaller than the house we left in New Mexico. Dad turned off the car and no one said anything for a few minutes. Then my 12 year old sister Marisa asked the question we were all thinking: “Do we have to live here ?!”
It was a heartbreaking ordeal moving from Hobbs to Siloam Springs. Dad was driving the U-Haul truck with me and my brother. Mom drove my sisters into the station wagon. Dad really wasn’t comfortable driving the big truck. He tended to move to the side of the road as traffic approached, his white knuckles on the steering wheel. His attitude did not fill me with confidence. Somehow we got separated from mom and daughters, but we kept going until we got to Grandma’s house in Eastland, TX. Mom arrived an hour later, crying and exhausted because she had spent time going back to try to find us. I can only imagine the bedtime conversation between my parents that night.
We continued the trip after breakfast the next day. The truck was not going faster than 80 km / h, and mom was not going to lose us anymore. She stayed behind us no matter how slow the truck was. We were traveling with our beagle dog and the kids being kids, stops were frequent. Dad might have taken a few wrong turns as well, but for some reason it was dark when we got to Siloam. We parked the U-Haul at the Eastgate Motel, where we had planned to spend the night. Only dad had seen the house before the move, and we the children were delighted to see it. We had to keep the dog there for the night anyway, so we piled into the Pontiac and headed to our new home.
My sister’s disappointed question spoke for the rest of us. The house was in very poor condition. It had been rented for several years and maintenance was obviously not a priority on the previous owner’s list. Dad took the flashlight and led us through the house. If we had voted, I believe my siblings and I would have wanted to go back to New Mexico. The carpet was dirty. The kitchen and bathrooms were disaster areas. There was no central air conditioning (or heating as we would find out in a few weeks). There were three bedrooms, but they were very small.
Dad assured us that things would be better in the morning, that we were all just tired. We left the beagle on the back porch for the night and returned to the motel. No one said much on the way home.
The next week was spent cleaning and fixing as much as we could. We have learned to drink sulphurous water. I spent more time outside in the woods and by the river than at home. For me, the grass, the trees, the wildlife and the river were slices of heaven. We didn’t have them in the New Mexico desert. Here we could walk barefoot in the yard without stepping on stickers or fire ants. An old apple tree was full of yellow apples. Blueberries, plums, and blackberries were plentiful, as were pecans and walnuts. We ate wild persimmons for the first time. Squirrels were plentiful for hunting and we could fish as we liked. The land the house was on was obviously the reason Dad made the purchase and the real value.
The house was old when we bought it, but now it’s better than it’s ever been. Central air was added 25 years ago, the roof has been replaced several times, the water filtration removed the sulfur smell and additions to accommodate another bathroom have been made. Mom refuses to even consider living elsewhere. During this time, we have respected the land by managing the timber, keeping the pasture mown, and not building haphazardly. Much of the scenery is as it was when we first saw it, and there are no plans to change it.
Fifty years have witnessed my growth from a teenager on the verge of old age. I left this place once, but it made me back down, luckily. Much of yesterday is just memories, good and bad. Family members have passed away and new lives have entered, completing the circle of renewal. The only constant has been the earth, silent and lasting, taking and giving, but still nourishing.
Fifty years ago our family was transplanted there and took on new roots. These roots are now deep, firmly anchoring our family tree in this place we call our home. We don’t have to live here now, but we do, with joy. Dad was right. In the morning everything looked better.
– Devin Houston is the CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send your comments or questions to [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.