House for rent

by Vivian Lawson Hogue

Every person should live in a rental unit at some time in his or her life, and almost everyone has. You may say you never have, but you did if you went to college and lived in a dormitory room. I clearly remember the cramped quarters.

Along two walls, my roommate and I had built-in beds holding mattresses with dents in the middle deep enough for eagle nests. On the wall between the beds, a long built-in desk with an inadequate bookshelf above reached from bed to bed. On a toss-and-turn night, one’s head sometimes found the corner.

There were two small closets, a few drawers surrounding the vintage sink and a small mirror. One mirror for two females during the era of “flips” and “beehive” hairstyles was not enough. One of my roommates was tall, so she would stand behind me while poufing her hair. She was a smoker, so I ducked when she doused her hair with AquaNet, keeping an eye on the fire extinguisher in case of erupting flames.

We actually had dorm inspections with demerits for untidiness. Some of the wealthier girls had lots of clothes to toss around. While I lived on a strict budget and had basic clothing, I did have around 40 pairs of shoes that might be strewn about. Now I have fewer pairs of shoes, but just as many pairs of reading glasses.

Houses, apartments or dormitory rooms can create memories. During my first marriage, our first rental house had a clothesline. Depending upon your age, you may ask, “What’s that?” It is two opposite poles in the ground and between which a string of wire is attached to each. Wood or plastic clips attach damp, laundered items to the wire to dry in the sun and wind. That is, if there is sun and wind and some birds or rain clouds don’t fly over. Pungent dryer sheets are unneeded because the laundry will have the most refreshing smell you’ll ever experience.

Our second rental was made of asbestos. We have, so far, survived unscathed. Located in a small town in the “oil country” of South Arkansas and built on what was once an “oil slough (pronounced slew),” there was not much mowing to do. I couldn’t even get weeds to grow.

It was in that house where I once found my toddler-daughter on the floor, “cooking” by mixing together one can of shortening and a half-can of coffee. I was in an “expectant mode” waiting for my second child any minute, but didn’t think I wanted her cleaning it up as well as she had “cooked” it. I spent 30 minutes getting the floor degreased then cleaned. If you’ve ever seen how a giraffe stands while drinking from a pond, I looked very similar, except the giraffe can see her feet.

We soon moved to another town with a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old. We lived out of boxes as I also struggled to type rough drafts of my dad’s book on a portable typewriter. (Remember those?) However, the memories are good because we ate a lot of hot dogs and I read a lot of books to the children, even though the youngest had no idea what I was saying.

Another move, another town. We moved three times within that town; once to escape a water heater that made threatening sounds and once because the house was unexpectedly sold. The third house was a charm.

These stories represent only a few of all of the houses in which we were tenants. I always took care of our rentals as if they were our own homes. I mowed the lawns, dug and grew gardens, planted flowers, and learned to fix things. I never let pets or kids mutilate the window blinds and we didn’t park in the yards. I kept the premises clean, our pets quiet and the kids were home at night, except for ball games or sleepovers. Renting is not ideal, but with mutual care and consideration by the lessee and lessor it can be very comfortable.

The only thing I always wanted and still want is a fireplace. I don’t know how God is going to give ALL his followers a mansion, but that’s what he said. My friend, the late Eleanor Opitz, always said when she got to heaven all she wanted was green grass that stretched unendingly so she could mow forever with her beloved antique John Deere tractor.

All I want is a mammoth fireplace in every room, a never-depleted stack of firewood, a big easy chair and the company of my spouse, children and our missed dogs and cats. Imagine – no security signs needed, an attractive neighborhood of family and friends . . . and Billy Graham next door!

Vivian Lawson Hogue
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