Karen had originally moved to Blaine to share an apartment with her girlfriend April who had since gotten married. She was used to plain little Blaine (no great pizza though, thought Karen) and also liked not living too far from her parents and sister in Michigan. However, when Kurt announced they may have to move, she was very excited. It was a big step up for Kurt to become a regional assistant director, and Waco, Texas sounded exotic and just right: not too big, not too small. (And what fun to get cowboy boots, read Lonesome Dove, and learn to say “y’all!”) Real estate prices were good there Kurt reported, and they could get a house, a real home!
Karen started collecting boxes and cleaning out the apartment immediately. Kurt smiled as she threw out all those saved plastic cottage cheese cartons, old shoes, and worn paperbacks. She bought a heavy duty packing tape “gun,” and clipped to the collar of her grubby for-moving-only tee shirt a thick black permanent marker she used to label the boxes. She was a re-lo machine, and Kurt called her the “Movin’ Maven.”
They rented the U-Haul, had the moving day “party” with friends, and left Blaine on a lovely spring morning. I-69 was clear sailing mostly and the weather held up with a little rain and a lot of cheery sun. Karen marveled at the beauty of the trees, hills, farms and the sheer space of the country. They both loved car trips and It was a second honeymoon for them. They took three days to get to Waco (they had to see Graceland, didn’t they?) staying in old motels (always fun, unanchored to reality!, Karen thought, as she jumped on the beds in her socks).
On a previous business trip to Waco Kurt had found them a small rental house behind a larger home for their Texas landing. He wasn’t nervous a bit about choosing it for Karen. (How bad could it be?, she braved.) Besides, they’d be hunting for another home soon. Karen didn’t even plan to unpack all the boxes until the REAL move.
The little house was perfect Karen exclaimed when she saw it: even with the tiny, relentlessly bright yellow kitchen and the teeny bathroom where you could be in the shower and open the bathroom door simultaneously. The whole place reminded her of the apartment in that old movie, “Barefoot in the Park,” and she felt a little bit like Jane Fonda, although Kurt was a lot more handsome and sweeter than that guy who played Jane’s husband in the film.
One summer weekend on a house-hunting drive through neighborhoods they liked, it just popped up! They knew the second they saw it that this was their house! A brick, one-story with big trees, den and kitchen that looked out on the backyard, and a pleasant, shady patio. Karen imagined morning glories on the fence and a little dog running around the yard. Here on Edwin Street they’d found the perfect home. Karen had an overpowering urge to buy a brightly colored and powerful vacuum cleaner.
The neighbors to their east invited them to lunch on move-in day. How kind, thought Karen! Real Southern hospitality! Jeanette and Bill were much older (late 40’s, maybe, Karen guessed with two kids in high school, but they were so helpful with not only a good lunch, but also advice and gossip about the neighborhood, and the loan of a broom after their own was somehow lost in transit. Karen and Jeanette were pals by the end of the lunch break.
By late afternoon Kurt had returned the truck, and Karen had unpacked most of the kitchen and also made up the bed. (Make up the bed first thing when you move Aunt Zinnia always said. You’ll be tired later and glad you did!) Some boxes were still in the garage on a tarp to keep them clean and dry in case of rain which threatened. Kurt got a ride home from a friendly guy at the rental place (more hospitality!), who even stopped so Kurt could pick up a bottle of chardonnay and two folding chairs at a drug store. “I didn’t see any champagne, Sweetie, so this will have to do. I got some cheese crackers too!” Karen said that was perfect, the day had been perfect, their house was perfect, and he was perfect!
There was no happier couple in all of the Lone Star State than they, sitting on their own patio under their own big pecan tree drinking cheap white from plastic cups. As they chatted they watched the sky grow darker and then turn a pale greenish, with huge roiling clouds and a rather refreshing breeze. They talked about Kurt’s first day on the job Monday, and the house, of course, the things they needed (a bucket, hooks for the closet, sandpaper for the stuck kitchen cabinet — boring Home Depot stuff). But they both kept one eye on the sky and felt the wind grow much stronger and then die down to almost complete stillness. As mid-Westerners they were used to weather drama so they were not surprised or fretful.
Before the sirens even went off, they folded up their chairs (so calmly, like a school drill! thought Karen), stuffed a last cracker or two in their mouths, scooped up the wine, and went inside. They opened a few windows just a tad (thus learning which ones were painted shut!) and checked their phones to see that there was a tornado watch in the Waco area and that two tiny twisters had already touched down briefly far west of town.
Getting the pillows from the bed and putting on their running shoes, they hunkered down with their phones in the inner hallway. Karen had also grabbed her purse and her wedding gift watch from the dresser. They snuggled on the floor leaning on the wall, quite happy actually when (Holy Moly!) they heard that distinctive rushing sound like a train, and then felt the house breathe and shudder. They held each other tightly now. The confused noise and surge of power all around them was over quickly. (3 minutes? 2? wondered Karen.)
“I think it’s safe to get up now,” said Kurt, though he still held his wife tightly. Their phones had all the news instantly about the small tornado that had bounced through west Waco. Now there was just the drumming of hard, solid rain on the roof and the whoosh of safer winds.
When they saw from the kitchen window that the garage was gone, they were both stunned. Some of the boxes were still there on the tarp but only some, and their car had been turned about 90 degrees! Rain splattered on the boxes, and they dashed out to find another tarp to cover those which they had so carefully placed on a tarp to protect. (Oops! Wrong side! thought Karen.) So boxes they threw in the car (watching out for the one with “Wedding Crystal” in big black marker!) and then lashed the tarp over the remaining ones with bungees from the trunk.
When they got back to the house they were absolutely soaked and dripped all over the kitchen. But they were laughing so hard they slid down the front of the cabinets and sat on the floor rolling side to side and hugging their ribs. “We’ve been christened real Texans now,” said Kurt when he found his breath. Karen added, “It’s going to be such a great story for the rest of our life, Kurty! How cool is that?” She wiped her eyes, full of tears of laughter, with the back of her hand and said, “Are you hungry?”