Today is a special day for the Christliebs. An anniversary. On June 19, 1996, after about five months of building that seemed more like 15, Kay and I moved into our first house.
And 25 years, just one roof replacement, one new AC unit and a slew of new neighbors on both sides of us later, we’re still here at 6108 Castle Creek Road in southwest Arlington. Believe it or not, we still have the original microwave that was installed when the home was built for us. (oh darn, we’ll need a new one any day now …)
We’d been married three months short of two years and living in a duplex in West Fort Worth, 25 minutes from our new one-story, three-bedroom house, built by Steve Hawkins Custom Homes. Although Kay and I weren’t exactly youngsters — I was 35 and Kay was about to turn 32 in a few days — we really had no idea what we were doing during the homebuilding process.
Being of modest means on the salaries of a newspaperman and a bank teller, we went for the cheapest, most basic choices when it came to light fixtures, carpeting, bathroom fixtures, appliances and all the other features that come with a new home. We cut every corner so much, at times I worried we were going to have a bland house. I was wrong, of course. Owning your own home is a blessing, period.
During those grinding months as we made almost daily visits to monitor the building, we tried to keep a close watch and stood our ground when things didn’t look — or smell — quite right. Like the time we found a piece of sheetrock with poop on it in our master closet (and believe me, it wasn’t an animal’s). Or the time they were building a privacy wall incorrectly between the toilet and one of the vanities in the master bathroom (halfway up instead of a foot short of the ceiling like we wanted). Or when we found that chewing tobacco had been spit all over the interior sheetrock in the living area as it was being put up after framing.
Perhaps the biggest fuss we made, though, was after Kay drove out excitedly to check on the progress of the brick going up. Before signing our contract, we had driven around a number of neighborhoods with Steve Hawkins homes, mostly in Fort Worth, looking at brick colors and trying to decide what we wanted. We finally decided on the one we liked best, a mix of hues including mostly reddish-orange, white and flecks of black.
Kay arrived at the house later than she’d planned, and a lot of the brick was already in place on the west side of the house. Before we ever dreamed of having a cellphone, she soon called me from work just a couple of miles away at Bank of America, frantic and upset: “The brick is the wrong color!” (That’s approximately what she said.)
Instead of being a reddish-orange shade, it was more pink. I hurried over to the house, and sure enough, it looked pink to me, nothing like what we’d picked out — a style called “Jackson,” I have no idea why.
We called Ken Hawkins, who was our salesman and the brother of the company owner, and told him the brick was all wrong. He told us it was what we ordered, and every batch is going to be slightly different. We argued that it’s not even the same color — pink is pink, and not what we wanted.
To say we were extremely upset would be putting it mildly. The smooth-talking, used-car-salesmanesque Ken said once all the brick was up and the mortar was in place, it would look much more like what we wanted. We took it up with the foreman, but I can’t recall if we bitched to the owner Steve. We really wanted them to take the brick down and order a new batch. Ken said too much brick had already been put up and that couldn’t be done. We probably should’ve raised more hell than we did.
Anyway, when the bricking was done, it didn’t look more like what we wanted. It looked pink. Kay and I were still upset, but we weren’t going to let the brick debacle ruin our excitement about our first home.
This day 25 years ago when we moved in is a vivid, scorching memory. It was 105 degrees outside. Inside, with the front door open for the movers, it was almost as hot: Who knows why, but our electricity hadn’t been turned on yet, so in that blistering heat, we had no AC. The movers were dripping sweat all over our new carpet and the wood flooring in the entry. We felt awful for them, and of course for us. That evening, thankfully, the power came on, along with the cool air we so desperately needed.
After all these years, we still love our home. It’s been paid off for four years. Sure, there’ve been times when we’ve thought about moving. As the kids have grown, it’s gotten a bit more cramped. (It’s three bedrooms, 2 baths and just under 1,800 square feet.) Sometimes I feel like there’s not enough privacy for us all. But we seem to have managed.
We’ve made a few changes to the house. When the kids were very young in about 2006, we took out all the carpeting (except in their bedrooms) in favor of laminate flooring. A few years ago, we finally changed the original thin white carpeting in their rooms and our closet in favor of something darker and a bit more plush.
In the past couple of years, we’ve finally put in new light fixtures in several areas (Kay’s done all that on her own!) and new bathroom fixtures. We’ve had a tankless water heater for about 10 years, which we *highly* recommend.
So I don’t think we’re going anywhere, at least for now. Kay, who seems to be the only family member who has a genuine fondness for yardwork (and easily the only green thumb), has done wonders with flowering plants, groundcovers, herbs, vegetables and other things that grow and look pretty in both our back and front yards.
This morning, on my way to take a walk before the heat settled in, I took photos of some of the beautiful plants Kay planted this spring in the bed left of our driveway. She started it four years ago and it’s been a lush section of flowers, greenery, scents and buzzing activity ever since.
The shots below include Shasta daisies, purple coneflower, white and purple dotted gayfeather (also called Liatris, the ones with bees buzzing around), red salvia, and yellow Esperanza (“hope” in Spanish).
Happy silver house anniversary to us!