CHAPTER 11 – THE HOUSE
April 1981. That was it. It was done. Small, cozy home wedding followed by honeymoon in Hawaii. Time to finish up my first semester in Elementary Education with some good grades and take the summer off to plan, dream, and think about what the future holds.
That was the summer I fell in love with Last Island. A bunch of us loaded into a friend’s boat and headed out with food and camping gear in tow. Even though I wanted to romanticize about being on the island, it was really a trip from Hell. I hadn’t anticipated that mosquitoes would be camping out on the island with us, way out in the sea air of the Gulf of Mexico.
How wrong I was. I guess I wasn’t really much on roughing it, because I had no idea what kind of tent we needed. I trusted The Captain to take care of that, but all he had was an army pup tent, which meant we were prime prey for the blood-suckers.
A beach towel was my only cover, so it was one tremendously miserable night. I held the towel over me with one hand and a can of OFF with the other and sprayed my ankles, feet, and arms all night long. I probably should’ve just stayed up and spent that time learning to gig flounder instead of trying to sleep. What a joke!
In the morning, I walked the dull, moist sands collecting catfish back bones that looked like crucifixes and sea shells devoid of color, bleached by the sun. I was thinking of a time back in the late 1800’s when this very island was a summer resort for the influential of Louisiana.
I had read all about it in a book by James Sothern called “Last Island”, which had been published in 1980, just a year before. Sothern was a professor at the college where I had returned to study, although I didn’t know him personally.
Summer passed and another semester began, as my daydreams about Last Island turned to thoughts about our future. The Captain and I married because we were both ready to settle down and start a family. Somehow, this very independent young woman who had been a roustabout and deckhand was ready to plant her feet on solid ground and put down some roots of her own.
That was really outstanding because I had vowed that I would never, ever have children. Of course, that was because I had seen a video of the birthing process before I was ready to see such a sight, and it basically turned me away from the whole idea of procreation.
Things change. People grow and mature, as had I, envisioning being content and fulfilled as a stay-at-home mom, keeping house for a man who couldn’t wait to get home to me, and whom I looked forward to greeting each time he returned home.
The Captain continued to work on boats, while I made plans to build a house and continued going to college. My father-in-law had bought acres of property many years before with the thought of giving each child his or her own piece upon which to build a house.
We chose a piece at the back of the property, away from the other four houses, and cleared the trees from the land with our own hands. We were actively hoping to conceive our first child as soon as possible, and while we cleared the land, I was thinking that I probably wouldn’t get pregnant until the house was finished.
Our newlywed status survived some real tests, like those of installing floor tiles, painting walls, putting up wallpaper and installing ceramic tile. Once I finished all the window coverings, we moved in right before Christmas of 1981. What a great feeling of accomplishment–our first home.
At the time, neither of us were devout church goers. The Captain, having been baptized Catholic, had his disagreements with the Catholic Church–the biggest of which was the idea of confession. He would say, “Why should I go through the operator when I can dial direct?”
He had attended worship with me at the Presbyterian church and felt very comfortable there, but talking about spiritual matters hadn’t been a big priority in our relationship up to that point. So, what happened next took me quite by surprise.
While sitting on the porch swing not long after we moved in, a thought came to me from what seemed like somewhere deep inside. It went like this, “You aren’t going to get pregnant as long as you are smoking. You need to quit smoking.” My daddy used to say to me, “Sugar, when something is right, you will just KNOW it.” And at that moment, I knew exactly what Daddy meant.
But how in the world was I going to relate that message to someone with whom I had barely discussed spiritual matters? Would he think I was off my rocker?
So, that night, I mustered up the courage to tell The Captain that I had some sort of revelation or epiphany (neither word came to me at the time) or thought that I wasn’t going to get pregnant until I stopped smoking.
Surprisingly, he took the news better than I thought he would, and being the kind of guy that he was, he decided that he would quit, too. On December 31, 1981, right before midnight, we smoked the last cigarette and that was that.
About six weeks later, we learned that I was pregnant, and the journey of married life with children was about to begin.