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James R. Stout

Changes - Part 3

            This getting ready to move is like Eddie Haskell giving me the biz. I have lived here for a little over 11 years and it’s amazing the stuff that you can accumulate. I got the spare bedroom packed and ready to go. It took me a week and a half to do that one room. After packing several boxes with my books and DVD/Blu-ray collections, the desk that I’m not even going to keep, the file cabinet that I’m not going to keep, a secretary desk/chest of drawers that I’m not going to keep and it was full of my CD collection, I then groaned aloud when I opened the walk-in-closet door. But it’s done now. There’s about 50 boxes filled just from that room. I’ve also managed, with a little help from my brother-in-law, to get the kitchen packed with the exception of a skeleton crew of dishes and so forth that I will use until I move out. But there’s still the pantry. Another groan.

            I still have my studio room to pack and that closet in there is wall to wall stuff too. There’s my master (I’m still calling it that because doggone it I’m the master of this humble abode!) bedroom which won’t be too bad, the master bath (way too many cabinets), and let us not forget the shop out back. The garage is mostly done and that’s a blessing. The amazing part of all of this is that I haven’t lived here nearly as long as my parents had lived at their last house, yet it feels like I have as much stuff as they did. That was fun packing it all up, selling some, giving away some, and generally paring it down much as I am now doing for myself. My father was the King of Stuff. Seriously. He had about 7 bottles of Old Spice that were all opened and used to some extent. It’s amazing the things you learn about a loved one after they are gone, and you have to go through their stuff. Dad had a fetish for electric razors. He quite literally had 22 of them. I feel sure that a couple of them were old enough that Santa Clause used them to go snow sledding on in those old commercials. Another thing about Dad was the catalogs. Not great big catalogs like a Sears catalog, but those kinds that come in the mail and they’re about the size of a small magazine. You know, the type that your see, “As Seen On TV”? He had enough to fill a large garbage bag. And he bought things from them frequently. There were some things still in the package and never opened that were duplicated, triplicated, and even more. Why? Because he would forget where he put the first one and then order a second one. Then he would forget where both of them were and so on and so forth. There were the one-time used items that he couldn’t part with either. He bought a tabletop shuffleboard game. We played it once and it sat in a corner of his shop until it was rediscovered upon his passing. But Dad wasn’t really so strange. We all have our little idiosyncrasies. I’m sure that when I die my daughter will wonder what I was thinking with my collection of what-nots.

            There was a time in my life when moving was commonplace. From birth through my 11th year we lived in 8 different places. It wasn’t that we were vagabonds or anything like that. Most of the time there were very good and valid reasons for the move. The house that we lived in when I was born was a 2-bedroom VA wood frame house. Since I was the third kid and the only boy, it was decided a 3-bedroom home was needed. So, we moved to one of those. We didn’t stay there long though. Within a few months Mom became alarmed with the pollution that the Goodyear Tire plant was belching out along with the disgusting smell of a big paper company. The pollution quickly turned our light blue house into a dirty brown with patches of black. So, after only 9 months at that house, we moved to yet another home. It was by all appearances a nice place. It had great curb appeal. It had those large awnings over all the windows that remind you of a Hollywood bungalow, it had a front breezeway, three bedrooms, a nice sized kitchen and dining room, and a detached two car garage. What could make us want to move from there? We soon learned that the foundation was in bad shape. Awfully bad shape. It was going to cost a small fortune to repair it and the money just wasn’t there. So, we moved to our fourth house. It was a decent house with 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and breakfast room, a dining room and living room, but only one bathroom and one car garage. We stayed there for 3 years though. A record at that time. Then Dad and Mom decided they didn’t want to raise their family in the big city. They wanted the peace of a smaller town, but one big enough to support my father’s business. The town turned out to be Bryan, Texas which also meant there was the sister city of College Station to help support Dad’s business. We first moved into a temporary house while my folks searched for a permanent home. That temporary house was old and lacked most of the amenities that lower middle-class families were accustomed to. It was small, creaked in a strong wind, had no AC of any kind, a tiny bathroom, and generally an old feeling to it. The permanent house (which wasn’t as permanent as we thought it would be) was the nicest house that we lived in during my growing up years. It was brick, three-bedroom, two bath, large dining and den, large living room, the laundry room was inside the house instead of being in the garage, and we added a large workshop for my Dad’s business. It was truly a nice house. But it lacked something that we needed just as bad as a nice house. Nice neighbors. They were extremely clannish, difficult to get along with (we were outsiders pure and simple), and in a couple of cases downright hostile. After 3 years there Mom and Dad decided that they made a mistake moving to Bryan and we moved back to Houston. This time on the northside instead of the southside. Again, we lived in a temporary house while the house that we were going to buy became available. The temp house wasn’t too bad itself other than it was located on a busy street. It did have two baths, but it was rather small. Finally, we moved into the 8th house. It would be the house that we lived in for the remainder of my years of living at home. I moved out to get married 3 days before I turned 21.

            Now, I’m sure all of that useless information has lulled some of you to sleep. But my point of telling it is to show that moving and all the changes that come with it are sometimes just part of life. I haven’t known too many people who lived in only one house from birth until leaving home. Even after leaving home the moves continued. There were the early marriage years of living in apartments and always wanting something better. I moved 9 times from the age of 21 to 27. There were another 5 moves from 30 to 37. Then we stayed in one place for 11 years. I’ve tied that record now. After the divorce in 2003 I moved 5 times including the house that I am about to move away from. If you’re counting, then that’s a total of 27 moves in my life of 65 years. That’s a lot of moving. But I bet a lot of people my age can claim similar totals. Moving and all of the changes that go with a move are simply a part of life. You have to learn to roll with punches or whatever metaphor you wish to use.

            So, now I’m rolling again. I’ll be living in a temporary situation while my “permanent” living quarters is ready. Some things don’t change after all. The funny thing is that as I look back at all those moves, for the most part I was excited about each move and the new path that I was about to embark upon. When we moved to Bryan, I was excited. When we moved back to Houston, I was even more excited. Moving out to get married was obviously exciting. Moving into our first house was exciting. Moving here on the farm was beyond exciting. And, I am extremely excited about the move to come. I’ll miss a lot about living out here, but there are things that I won’t miss. I won’t miss the upkeep. Mainly because of my physical limitations of the past 2 years and how they have made doing some of the things that I once enjoyed not so enjoyable now. I’ll miss the quiet and solitude and scenery, yet I can’t wait to be there to hear every noise made by my grandchildren (especially when they say, “Paw-Paw this or Paw-Paw that). No it won’t be as quiet and certainly won’t have the solitude of living in the sticks, but then there’s being close to my grandkids and my daughter and her husband, being closer to my doctors, closer to necessities, and when this Covid thing is over and done, I will enjoy a plethora of restaurants that I just don’t have up here on Green Acres.

            So, bring on the changes. I’ve had them before and if I live long enough there will be even more somewhere down the line. The fact is that one of the things that I have learned as I have grown older is that when it’s all said and done family is the most important thing we can have here on Earth. It’s not the cars, houses, guitars, and “stuff”. I’m going to be fortunate enough to have much more time with my family and what could be better than that? I mean, my daughter isn’t Mama June, my son-in-law isn’t Meathead, my grandkids weren’t cooked in the same oven as the Bundy kids, and if anything, they are truly blessings to this old man’s life. Every major league pitcher needs a good change-up. It looks like I’m going to have the best one of all.

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