Five years ago at the beginning of this month, Glen and I put our Austin house on the market for the first time, getting serious about our dream of moving to the country. Six months later, after a hard-fought contract fell through, we took the next six months off to reclaim some sanity. Being forced to maintain constant household readiness and submit to the whims of looky-loos with no intention to buy was draining. And humbling. “I don’t like being able to see the kitchen when I walk in the front door,” sniffed one woman. Well honey, you really wouldn’t like the house I have now.
So after a breather, we put the house on the market a second time. At last, after another sixteen months, we were free. Good-bye City, Hello Country.
But was it really our dream? If you’d asked me thirty-five years ago, I’d have said, “It may be Glen’s, but it’s sure not mine!” At that point, we weren’t married yet. Thirty-five years ago, I was all about dieting into designer jeans (remember those? Charlotte Fords were my favorite), experimenting with new eye makeup and going weekly to the late, great Steamboat, a Sixth Street Austin music venue, to see the Austin All Stars play. Oh—and straightening . . . every . . . last . . . bit of curl out of my hair, at temperatures that could fry catfish. I was so successful that, until I gave up flat ironing thirteen years ago, Glen had no idea I had curly hair. And just how curly. (To be honest, I was a little surprised too.) Now he claims I married him under false pretenses. He probably would have a case against me for fraud.
After we married, we did move to the country. Still not my dream, but I would have followed him anywhere. Our first house together was east of Austin in a tiny farming community. (That was where the FBI came knocking at our front door one day, asking probing questions about one of the neighbors.) Over the three years we lived there, we managed to keep up a semblance of city life, driving to Austin daily for all errands and fun excursions. We were much younger then. We could maintain the pace. When we moved back into Austin again, though, we chose an area removed from the city’s heart, which was fast becoming a hotbed attracting throngs of residents. And over time, we found ourselves moving farther and farther into the outskirts. Turns out it was just one short step from that to owning cows.
Some people will always thrive on the lively turmoil of city dwelling. Glen, on the other hand, came to need the serenity of quieter surroundings, with great dollops of nature to nourish his soul. It came as a surprise when I found I needed these things too.
Now we have a place with great neighbors, who live more than fifteen yards away. We can watch a bald eagle standing tall in a treetop as it observes its youngster’s awkward swoops and glides. Or note the predictable daily habits of black cattle who retreat beneath the shade trees each morning, then emerge to bathe in the stock tanks each afternoon. The simplicity of such routines brings focus to our minds, as well as a measure of comfort and reassurance. And a sense, however illusory, that all will continue just the same when we’re gone.
This time, unlike thirty-five years ago, we share the same dream. Thank heavens. After too much noise for too many years, I think I needed the emptiness of days spent watching the changeable, eloquent face of the sky.
Glen asks me every week if I’m happy here. I try to reassure him, but he still remembers the girl with the straight hair who wanted to go out and have fun. I remember her too. She would have thought this place was lovely, but living here would have been hard for her. I’m not that girl anymore, Glen. I have to tell you, though, even then, it was just as it is now. All I really ever need for happiness is to be with you.
However. I’m obligated to point out that it wasn’t just me who wasn’t being entirely honest when we married.
I only surprised you with curly hair. You surprised me with . . . cows.
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