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.

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  1. I have been waiting for another chapter but didn’t want to bug you about it! 🙂 This property that you build something on the back of. Is this the piece of property you live on now? I love Last Island. I also have spent the night in a tent and walked it’s dull sandy shores. I remember hearing the night hawks make their strange sounds as they swooped through the air and picking up things from the beach. Now I’m waiting to read the next installment!

    1. I was hoping you’d be one of the first to get the notification! No, the family land is in Dulac, remember? That was our first home. I don’t recall hearing the night hawks, but wish I had!!! Now, it is a protected bird sanctuary and no one can walk on it, as we found out last summer on one of our Bayou Woman Adventures!!! (I hope the next installment doesn’t take me a year to write.)

      1. I got to read Chapter 11 as I was taking a mid day break in the White Mountains so AZ. We are camped on a beautiful alpine lake. I’ve been watching the elk, bald eagles, osprey shore birds, ducks, a white faced ibis and even a great blue heron rookery! Will be posting pictures soon on FB.

    1. Thank you, Cammy. This was a short chapter because I had to leave my desk, but I didn’t want to let it sit hoping to add to it . . . so I posted it to be continued!

  2. I’m in agreement with the others. I was beginning to think you’d given up the idea of another book.

      1. When you write using chapters (not paragraphs), it’s a book. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s electronically or on paper,,,it’s a book. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. LOL

        1. That should be …, not ,,,. I put my glasses on to read the rest of the comments and noticed what I’d done. I can’t see or type! LOL

  3. I always enjoy your writing and I have already read some of your earlier work.I have to get back to writing my husbands military journal. When you enjoy the outside, it is hard to stay in for me. keep up the good work.

  4. Oh, what a complete delight to find another chapter. And how neat to find some other folks who know about the nighthawks. They’re actually one of the birds that I found down here after growing up with them in Iowa. Inland, of course there are cardinals and chickadees and all that, but most of what I found here hadn’t been a part of my life.

    I love how you made your decision to stop smoking. It is true – sometimes we just “know” what we’re called to do. I like the phrase “intuitive planning”. It’s like something gets turned around and around and around in our subconscious, and when the decision’s made, it’s like it came out of nowhere. But it didn’t, of course.

    1981 was quite a year. That was the year my dad died, and I moved back to Texas to start a new career. You built a house, worked on a degree and moved toward starting a family. Can you believe that was more than 30 years ago? 😉

    1. You capsulized my thoughts exactly as I was proofreading—married, building, and moving in between April and December. Man, I should look at that and realize that when I decide to do something, well, I JUST DO IT!!!! It really was a lifetime ago, because Dotter is going on 31!!!

  5. Isn’t it amazing to look back and realize how foolhardy and confident you were, to just think you could do all that, then actually do it? What a story this has been, BW. Enjoying every chapter.

    1. It’s really weird to me how I lived live not thinking about the kind of person I was — not to sound uppity or anything, but golly, I guess I was just raised to do what I needed to do and move on!!! Great to hear from you again!

  6. what! tO BE cONTINUED! REALLY! I gotta wait to see what happens! LOL This is great, I loved reading this can’t wait for the next installment of this saga, seriously I could just invision all of this going on, you laying tile, clearing trees, all of it!!!

    1. Sharon, did you happen to have time to glance back at the first 10 chapters? It sort of catches you up on a capsule of my life since we graduated high school together “last century”, LOL!!!! Can’t wait to see you!

  7. Off topic. Just to let you know, in today’s Food section of the Baton Rouge Advocate, there is a recipe for Fig Ice Cream. Maybe it’s online. If it’s not, email me I’ll send it to you.

    1. You are the second person to mention this fig ice cream recipe to me in the past week, so I will have to go look it up! Thanks! (Hey, did you open your 2010 figs and try them?)

  8. How delightful..the story continues. A trip back in time. Thank you for taking the time to capture these memories including James Southerns LAST ISLAND. I shared my copy with some one yesterday.

  9. Oh, boy! I was wondering when the next installment would come out.

    You two certainly had a busy first year. Wedding, honeymoon, land clearing, school, work, building a house, moving in and getting the family started.

    Fig ice cream?

        1. Fig yogurt? Tell us more. What brand or homemade. Where did you get it. Wait a minute. I think I tried one not too long age . . . Fage`? I didn’t care for the flavor. Hm. Can’t tell you why, though : (

  10. BW, this is totally out of the blue and not related to anything, but in your kitchen picture of your strawberry fig jam, it seems there is a lace curtain right in back of our gas burners on your stove. Does that ever feel risky to you? Is it just me, freaking out??

    1. So, this is a little strange, too. Why did you put that comment here rather than over on that page? LOL!!!

      There was a lace curtain behind the stove, but it wasn’t a working window with no chance of a breeze ever blowing the curtain over the burners. So, no, it never felt risky to me. However, that’s no longer my kitchen, and you will rest easy knowing that my current kitchen has no lace curtains anywhere near the burners!

      1. Okay! I feel better now! And yes, I became misplaced, but then I thought – these comments all go to you, so what the heck? 🙂

  11. Enjoyed reading Chapter 11, Wendy. When Google dropped its Reader on July 1st, I lost all my blogs, including this one. I signed up for your RSS feed though. Good luck writing about the thirty-plus years that followed this one. [One tip: don’t rush it so much. You completely blew past a Hawaiian honeymoon. I bet that was a story right there!]

    1. I think there was a chapter about the honeymoon complete with pics in Hawaii!!! Thanks for getting the RSS or you can just click on the homepage to follow by email notification, otherwise. Glad you’re still reading, Brenda!