Last week, I told you about our 1998 flood and how we weren’t prepared. But god was. By nothing less than a miracle we were led to the house of our dreams, one we’d always admired because of its uniqueness. It was located atop the bluff and built on steel supports that suspended it into the tree tops and out over the bluff. From its wraparound decks we could see for almost 20 miles. Townspeople referred to it as the “Tree House.” The following spring we watched tender young branches emerge from the trees. A new beginning!
Remember, I formerly worked 17 years in real estate. In 1978, a relocation lead from Arizona came in, and because of its poor location, I was the only one who pursued it. The agent providing the lead said the house belonged to her grandmother.
This was before we had wide use of computer programs and it took me several hours to do my homework…there were NO near-by comps.
Driving to the given address, I noted the downtrodden area of “Old Houston” that was my destination. I was expecting what I found…a very old dilapidated structure that had seen little or no repairs since it was built in 1915.
I quickly tried to compose a “Thanks, but no thanks” speech for the Arizona agent. A cracked sidewalk led to broken steps and a sagging porch. Careful of my step, I lightly knocked on the door behind an outside gate of burglar bars. Getting worse!
Just as I turned to leave, the door opened and I met the lady of the house, Mrs. Bailey. I took a deep breath, introduced myself, and followed her inside. The interior, too, was in shambles, every surface of seating was covered in dog hair and their leavings were on the floor. I heard ferocious barking from behind a door which I assumed to be the kitchen.
She, however, wore a reasonably clean polyester pantsuit and sported earrings. Lipstick had been applied near her lips. She was 96, frail, and very hard of hearing. She showed me her special amplified telephone and told me she’d been watching for my car for over an hour. I spoke my words just short of a shout to which she nodded in return.
After an hour with this LADY, my prepared speech to her granddaughter went right out the window! She had stolen my heart. I found myself leading her through paper work and placed a “FOR SALE” sign in her yard before I left. The price she wanted was $50,000 too high
for the area. Back at my office, my broker said I’d lost my mind!
Over the following months, I had only three appointments made. Two drove away without going inside. I kept in touch because she enjoyed having company–“Nobody wants to bother with an old woman.” A neighbor brought her groceries on occasion. I learned she like Kentucky Fried Chicken and doughnuts and I usually took one or the other with me. The following autumn, my year’s listing ran out. The broker had complained when I extended it for six months and now refused the listing.
The day I went to take down my sign, she was waiting. She looked so sad…forlorn, watching me from the porch.
“Now, just because I no longer have your house listed doesn’t mean I won’t still call or come to visit you.” She brightened a bit before her face clouded again. “What do I owe you?”
“Nothing, because I was unable to sell your house.” Her face relaxed.
“Do you like flowers?” When I nodded yes, she led me to her potted plants atop
a row of cinder blocks. “You pick one out. I want to give you one.” I couldn’t decide on my choice.
Her gnarled hands reached down and handed me one. “Take this ‘un…it’s a good ‘un.” Thanking her, I told her I’d take very good care of it and that I was going to name it “Mrs. Bailey.” For only the second time, I saw her smile.
I took the plant home along with memories of a very special lady. I continued to visit her until the granddaughter moved her to Phoenix. A year later I learned of her death. But her namesake plant flourished on my patio…throughout the many 100-degree days of 1980 and the “big Christmas freeze” of 1982. She died down but came back strong. During Hurricane Alicia, she was dashed about the yard and broken beneath a fallen fence. Once again she defied all odds, sprouting new life in the spring. But when we flooded 15 years later, I knew I had lost her forever to the river.
FEMA was very fair as they completed sales on the houses along our street. Nine months later they began their demolition. The morning our home was to be razed, my daily devotional included Job 14:7. “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.”
I told Freemon I had to be there. It would be my closure. After the last wall fell (me, crying) and we were driving away, I spied a broken pot beneath a tree three houses away. Mrs. BAILEY!!…with the tiniest bit of green showing from a broken stem. A tender shoot! A tender branch NEVER to be silenced.
That great ‘lady’ endured a drought, a freeze, a hurricane and a flood; yet she refused to give up, just like her namesake. That’s the mettle she’s made of. Cradling her to me, I took her home where my ‘miracle’ continued to grow. Because, you see, she’s a good ‘un!
Brenda Miles is an award-winning columnist and author residing in Hot Springs Village. She hopes to hear your comments on this piece at firstname.lastname@example.org.