One day, on a Monday afternoon, I came home from teaching school and the house was gone! Jane had gone to England to visit with her mother and I remember telling her that I might do something with the house while she was away. No plans of any kind, maybe rebuild the steps or put a garden in. It was May, there was a month left of school and I had the summer off.
I must be thirty years old and have never worked a full year in my life. I had worked seasonally
along with my wife at the local cannery, a job I had while putting myself through college. Now I was a teacher of fourteen year olds and had the entire summer off with pay!
I remember drinking with my neighbor the night before. He was unemployed and we were drinking cheap wine together, getting drunk as guys tend to do. I vaguely recall talking about remodelling my house.
It was a small house, not particularly well built and had no foundation at all. A "fixer-upper"
they were called, but we had lived in it for almost five years without any major repairs.
When I came home from school that day the living room remained and the bathroom floor
with facilities in tact. No walls and no door, just a toilet, a sink and a wonderful six foot cast iron bath tub, all open to the air and the neighbors to the back and side of us. The rest of the house lay in a dead heap having been attacked with a chainsaw by my neighbor. Now I remembered!
This time in my life I didn't own a saw, not much of a hammer, not many tools at all and I had no idea what I was doing, neither the process nor the application. To top it all off I didn't have any money! You learn to act quickly as a school teacher or you will soon lose all control over the classroom. The next day in the teacher's lounge I was laughing I hope and telling this tale to fellow teachers. They were extremely helpful. One wrote me a check on the spot for $2,000,
something to get started with and others told me the process, about needing building permits and plans drawn, blueprints. As a kid I had built lots of tree houses and forts and never needed all this confusion, all this paper work, all these details. I just sort of built it as it came to me.
I made lots of phone calls and within a week I had all the proper documents and had the building permit in hand. Two more weeks until Jane got home and all I had was a living room and open air bathroom. I had a lot of work to do.
I still had teaching to do but I got the foundation under the living room and the steps poured before Jane got home. "I need tarps around the bathroom," she said.
My wife has this unflinching belief that everything will turn out alright, and as long as she has a shower she seeks no room to complain.
We took three days to get from Genoa to Barcelona and it was hot and dry and dusty the whole time. She had mentioned that she would like a hat, something to keep the sun from her eyes.
We found a little pension in the center of town, a tiny room but one with its own shower! I remember the cost was $1.25 per night, a little over budget from the normal 25 cent youth hostel. She wanted a shower and offered to wash my clothes if I would go out and find us something to eat. This is way before laundromats and we always washed our clothes in the bathroom sink when we could find one. This is Spain on a hot day in May and I am wearing short pants, a shirt dirty with street dust and my size 13D loggers' boots! I hadn't shaved in three days, I am sure I looked a mess.
I went on a search for food, that bread and cheese and wine that we lived on, but as I left
her for her shower I knew I was hunting for a hat.