While looking through old photos this weekend I came on this one.
The photo was taken in our first house which was about five miles out in the country outside Manassas, Virginia (well, it was country then; it's all built up now).
The house was built by a man named Ellis Crouch. Mr. Crouch worked for the CCC during the Depression and when he returned home, he built this log house for his bride. In his time it was a simple log cabin with a fireplace and wood cookstove for heat. When we bought it some 30 years later it had been remodeled by various owners who stuccoed over the logs on the outside and tacked sheetrock over the interior logs. We stripped the sheetrock off the logs and painted them, replaced the steel stair rail with a wooden one, and made several other cosmetic changes. It was a small house but for a starter home (and for $17,000 with an acre of land) it was perfect.
I got married when I was 17, and had my first son before I was 18. We moved into our little house soon after and within a year our oldest son George was joined by Jon. The two were immediate friends. When Jon was only six months old, George was down on the floor with him, showing Jon how to push little cars and make that vrooom sound--and Jon did both like an old hand.
Jon did many things early--first tooth at 4 months, first bottle of cold cow's milk at 4 and a half months, courtesy of my mother who thought he was older."Well dear, he's nine months, isn't he? Certainly old enough for regular milk now." Sorry, Mom. He was still on breast milk at the time but the sudden introduction to a bottle of ice-cold milk didn't bother him at all.
At eleven months he was almost walking. That was when he climbed up the steps of the sliding board and before I could reach him he was swinging, monkey-style, on the swingset crossbar. I nearly fainted from fright, but Jon was laughing and happy as could be.
About six months later I walked into the kitchen to find Jon on top of the refrigerator with his hand in the cookie jar I had stashed up there because he was able to climb onto any other surface in the kitchen. I learned that day that he could also scale the log walls to get to the cookie jar.
These two little boys were always busy and almost always outside. They played cars, dug in the dirt, played with our dog, talked to the neighbors whenever possible and were never apart. George loved to put Jon up to things, and Jon always did as his big brother told him. For example, one day George told Jon to pee in an electrical outlet upstairs.
Now you know this is not a good idea. Why Jon didn't get the shock of his life I will never know. What did happen was that the outlet shorted out and the house was filled with an acrid burning smell. I was about eight and a half months pregnant with son number four at the time, and had been out hanging laundry. When I came in and smelled that odor, I knew something electrical was burning.
What to do? Call 911, of course.
Which I did. I explained the smell to the man on the line, and also that I'd removed the four fuses (the whole house ran on 4 fuses, imagine!). He promised to send someone out to check on it.
While we waited for "someone to come and check on it" I grilled the boys.
"What did you do?"
Finally they confessed--just as we heard the first sirens wailing on the road to our house.
"They're going to take us to jail!" Jon cried and the two of them ran for cover, all the way to the back of the yard where they hid behind some trees as four fire trucks, an ambulance and a police car roared into our driveway.
The boys were terrified. So was I. How was I to explain to all these men what had actually happened? I was a shy 22-year-old and there was no way I could tell them the boys had peed in the outlet.
I picked up Derek, who was about 18 months, and headed out to meet our visitors.
"Uh, my little boys poured some water into the outlet," I stammered, shifting Derek on my hip.
The fireman grinned. "Oh yeah? Water, huh? Hey guys," he yelled, "she says her little boys poured water into an outlet!"
Five grinning firemen marched into my house. They returned a short time later, reporting the all clear. Nothing was hurt, apparently, except the outlet.
My boys did not return from their hiding place until every police car, fire truck and ambulance was out of sight. They were mortified that they had missed the excitement while at the same time relieved that they had not had to go to jail after all.
And Aaron, son number four, arrived just a few days later. Think the excitement might have hurried him along? I think that he heard those sirens and was in a hurry not to miss anything myself.