Late March 1969, the perfect family is enjoying a Sunday afternoon in their perfect house. Eric and George are out on the sun porch making a fort for the guinea pigs while Kara naps upstairs. George is in the living room, watching a basketball game on TV. I sit down next to him…
“There’s something I need to tell you.”
He raised one hand, like a cop stopping traffic. “It’s a tie game with two minutes left.”
“What I have to say is important.”
“The game will be over in a few minutes.”
“I think I’m pregnant.”
“Yes!” He punched the air. His team had scored.
“You’re not listening to me.”
A commercial break saved our marriage – or at least prevented a major meltdown on my part.
There was plenty of room in our hearts for the new child, we weren’t so sure about the house.
The solution lay over our heads. We could convert the maid’s quarters into a fourth bedroom. After all, we’d already turned the butler’s pantry into a children’s eating area. Maids? Butlers? Not for us. We had children.
The maid’s room took up two-thirds of the attic and had its own sink but no toilet. (She used a chamber pot?) It also lacked insulation, windows that opened, paint on the walls and anything else that might make it comfortable or attractive. No problem. We insulated, replaced the windows, painted, lay carpeting and put in a window air-conditioner. A few months before our baby was due, we moved the boys up. At their request, the guinea pigs also moved up.
Eric and George were delighted to have their own floor and lots of room for setting up train tracks, building forts, etc., but I was concerned. What if we had a fire? George devised a fire escape, using a ladder that extended from one of their windows down to the roof of the ex-butler’s pantry bump out. We demonstrated its use and stressed that it was only for emergencies. Happily, they never had to use it and, as far as I know, never experimented.
The bedroom they left behind was decorated for little boys and we decided to leave it alone. If we had another girl we’d worry about it then. My concern with gender appropriate decor melted under the pressure of caring for three little children while pregnant and married to a man who was working longer and longer hours.
Robert Asher inherited his brothers’ bedroom with its fire truck motif. Once again, all was well. That year, 1970, we stayed home, our home, for Christmas.