By Kristin Bennett
“You’d better fill the tubs and sinks with water before the move,” Great Grandpa Moeckly kept saying.
I couldn’t figure out exactly why he was so insistent, and what this was supposed to mean. But out of respect for this kind man with the fading memory, I nodded and agreed that it was a good idea, we’d better get that tub filled before they uprooted the house. Why? Nobody else seemed to know either. Nod and agree.
Only a few weeks earlier, I had decided my family needed a new foundation of our own, and I knew just where to go. We wanted stability, an affordable cost of living, safety, security, clean air, healthy lifestyles, and we wanted to feel like a true part of a community. We wanted a view, elbow room, horses, unsupervised kids riding bikes around town. In other words, it was time to go home to South Dakota. Denver had treated us well. But we needed a new foundation, just like the hundred-and-something-year-old house we had just purchased for pennies on the dollar compared to our Denver house. You know that ledger in your subconscious that keeps the silent running total on whether or not you’re making good decision? Subtract huge upside-down mortgage in Denver, add house paid for with a handwritten check in Britton.
The two-day ordeal of moving the beloved Moeckly family home to its new foundation 8 miles into town was a communitywide event.
It rained the day of the big move, but that didn’t stop the dozens of spectators who turned out to witness the beautiful old house being lifted from its leaking foundation onto the house mover’s truck. There was a sad and violent crashing, creaking, groaning sound as the foundation and house were separated. Basement windows shattered, huge saws broke through concrete, and the whole works was just amputated. Add three expensive hi-line cuts and repairs moving down Highway 10. Nobody was sure which would give way: the massive tree branch blocking our progress down the new driveway, or the creaking chimney butting up against it. Subtract chimney repair as tree gives way.
Selling our house in Denver, relocating the kids in their new school, moving into the old house, then moving the house itself… it was a little stressful. The lose-hair-in-big-clumps kind of stress. My doctor had to remind me that a human body and soul can only take so much at one time, and that my hair would grow back when my stress diminished.
Through all this turmoil, right down to today, there has never been one moment of doubt that we made the right decision. Add Nioxin miracle hair growth treatment shampoo. Subtract lock-down middle school and gang-relations committee meetings. Subtract Denver Public School Highly Gifted and Talented Program, add child’s first F by a Midwestern teacher who means business and knows how much self esteem a child actually needs.
We moved back into the house in chilly mid-October, before the new guts were even done. We used the fireplace for heat. We lit kerosene lamps for light. We used extension ladders instead of steps. The dog learned how to use a ladder. It was charming and cleansing. My hair started to grow back. We camped in our new old house. I sent photos to my friends in Denver of the old farmers standing in front of the Post Office, as though I had moved straight to Lake Wobegon. I had forgotten how charming small town life is, and I still feel that way five years later. Add fireflies, subtract sirens.
Five years earlier, as we waited for the new plumbing to be finished, we hauled heavy buckets of water up these long ladders just to use the sinks and toilets. That was when I remembered what Great Grandpa Moeckly had said. He was right: It sure would have been nice to just draw those buckets from a big tub full of fresh water.
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