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Friday, February 12, 2016

Living Small II

I sat staring at this blinking cursor and asked myself “Should I? Should I tell this story in it’s entirety? Do I really want to re-hash it?” I am still friggin' raw. But—this is a series blog, writing is therapeutic for me, and if the events of the last 6 months save one person the trial-and-error we’ve gone through, I’ll feel better about it. Okay, so let me pour a glass of liquid Band-Aid and we’ll begin.

I’ll start with a re-cap of where I left off in Living Small Part I. We’d just re-evaluated our goals for sustainable living. After researching shipping containers, campers, and tiny houses we started looking at modular, it seemed the logical choice, being middle-aged. If I had “gotten” this earlier, we would have a small living community by now. Anyway right now, a modular is the quickest route to get off the wheel, well—as soon as they take the tires off the home. 

We went to dealerships to check out some new model’s. The first criteria for our purchase was that it would be paid for in cash, same as the land. After a few lots we decided to scratch new, the cost was more than our allotted cash. So—we entered the no-mans-land of used modular's. 

For a month we followed leads on Craigslist. Let me tell you, mobile home selfies are misleading as hell. I nearly fell through the floor of one property and feared a snakebite on another. 

I rode back-roads for miles, looking for those crooked little signs that said mobile home for sale. One Saturday morning last May, a new listing popped up. A lake-house modular on the Santee in Eutawville. My sister and I went to check it out. Good bones, solid, small and, as the little bear said in The Three Bears, it was Just Right!

The owners were wonderful. They explained that originally the home’s purpose was for entertaining and a temporary residence for business contacts but they recently decided to build a home on the site. I could see its potential. And—they were throwing in the most tacky décor I had ever seen in my life for free. A resin cast toilet seat with embedded hollow point bullets. What The Hell?

We shook hands that day and I came back 2 days later with cash. Our acquisitions sat on two different rivers, exactly 55 minutes apart.

Now all we needed to do was find a mover. Piece-of-cake right? Well, apparently, the world of mobile home moving has become a seedy profession. I called 22, that’s right…22 movers! Sixteen of which were no longer in business. The six left on my list were undesirables to say the least. They gave quotes sight-unseen, had a longer list of what they wouldn’t do than what they would, and had other dis-qualifiers like you would not believe. There are reasons that this profession has declined morally, but that’s another story.

I narrowed it down to the three worthiest of the non-worthy. I felt led to one particular mover, because he did all the right things, (in the beginning.) He met me at the site to give a quote, talked knowledgeably about the procedure, signed a contract that I wrote up, and assured me that the date we were looking to move could be achieved.  I made a huge deposit. You don’t want to know. One thing that was cohesive in mobile-moving jargon was the price. It was going to be upwards of 10K for a 55-minute move. We didn’t see that coming, but here we were. 

In two weeks I was packed and ready to go! Don and I were settling into the comfortable possibility of not owing a soul for anything and staying that way for the rest of our lives. We were Googling solar panels and grids, Don gets a chicken coop design book ordered. I started declining any invitations to anything because the move was imminent. It was June 15th,  the last day either of us felt peace for six months.  

We were one hour away from home in Eutawville, the mover was doling out periodical phone calls to let us know of progress. The Move was the first of next week! And then I got a call—“Mrs. Renae, So & So’s truck alternator went out and we have to rent a truck to haul this or that, I need a check to cover the cost.” he said. I wasn’t suspicious at this time, being contractors ourselves, we know stuff happens. 

“Okay, we will give you the second draw, since the move is next week anyway.” I told him. Work commenced and I felt like we were okay; moving along again. 

A few days before the moving date, I got a call. The mover said “It’s raining here.” 

Now, I am like Doppler Radar, Doppler can’t move without me. 90% of our business is exterior. I am the best weather barometer in these parts. I replied “There’s no rain anywhere near us or Eutawville.” He told me that they would resume work the next day.

Living Small Part II

Living Small Part II

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How does one get ready for Christmas in the south? The same as our snow hoarding upper states do, we just don't shake our snow dome.
How do we deck the halls?  Right nicely I'd say, with  oyster, pine, sea shells, cotton and magnolia  wreaths. A resourceful bunch we are! We string lights from palmetto's to pine's, shrimp boats to pillions in plough mud.
You may not get a whiff of ham from a tiny snow capped smokehouse with white furling smoke in Charleston, but — if you follow your nose you're likely to find a burn pit or barrel glowing red and have a bottle of some Christmas cheer put in your hand.
Nope, you won't spy a sleigh tumbling down the hill, but if the tides just right you just might see someone paddle boarding downtown with a Santa hat on.
Merry and bright bundles of clothes? Oh yes, we have those here too! I don't care if it's 85 degree's on Christmas Day, we're still going to wear our boots and scarves. Last year while waiting on a bench for a few minutes before we went in to see a Christmas movie, I counted 60 pair of boots. But I sure couldn't say anything, I had on a super heavy 3/4 length black wool dress coat.
I'd of worn that coat if it were 100 degrees. The coat is part of an accidental tradition that started up north 16 years ago. Don and I found ourselves and our home oddly silent on Christmas Day. All of the kids and grand's were at their own homes. We decided to go to the movies and eat while we were out. It didn't take long to figure out that we were going to be eating Chinese. We went to the theater afterwards to see Tom Hanks in "Cast Away." I slid the ticket stubs into my pocket.
When I hung the coat up that Christmas, I didn't think anything about it again until the next Christmas. I pulled it off of the hanger and Don and I headed out for our Christmas Day date of Chinese and movie. Once again I slipped the tickets in my pocket. I felt something and pulled out the ticket stubs from last year. The tradition has continued every year since, same pocket, same coat. I've even thrown in some Chinese fortune cookie predictions to boot!
I pull those stubs out every Christmas morning now, and we read the movies out loud. Some were fading so badly I had to write in the wording again. Most of the movie titles wouldn't spark a thought of Christmas to someone who saw the stubs, but for me — they are memories, a constant reminder that we can make Christmas tradition wherever we are.
Sometimes I muse futuristic endings to situations of the present day. The Christmas coat is one of them. I'll set up the scene for you. After I'm gone from earth, this very well made classic coat ends up at a thrift sore. A woman pulls it off the rack and then hangs it back up scolding herself, who needs a 3/4 length wool coat here? She comes back to it again a few minutes later, the vintage coat is in great condition. She slips it on and checks her self out in the mirror. Sliding her hands into the pockets, she pulls out the stubs. "These are all from Christmas Day." she whispers. She takes the coat to the register on this 90 degree fall day and smiles at the odd glances from customers and clerk.
On Christmas morning, she picks up her grandchild. As they stand in line at the theater, she notices that people are doing double takes when they see her in this long wool coat, especially when most of them are in short sleeves, sandals and flip flops.
She purchases their tickets at the window and places the stubs in her granddaughter's hands. Before the movie starts she tells her grandchild the story about the Christmas coat tradition and then has her add their ticket stubs to the pile and back into the coat pocket.
Her grand-daughter smiles us at her and ask about another tradition. "Grandma, how does Santa get into our house if we don't have a chimney?"
 "Oh sweetie, that's a Yankee Santa, southern Santa comes in on high tide, uses the back screen porch door and — he looks a lot like Bill Murray."
Merry Christmas everyone!!