birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

A House and More

I was 4 1/2 months pregnant when we got the news that my husband would be released from the Navy a year early. That was really good news. No more worrying about doing harbor patrol in a minesweeper on the Mekong. Still it put a bit of a glitch in our plans. In one more year our car would be paid off. In one more year in the Navy would have paid for the baby. In one more year the baby would be seven months old and I could go back to teaching and he could start law school somewhere great. He had fabulous LSAT scores.

There was no question in our minds about re-upping with the Navy. But what next was a very big question. It was early September. A quick survey of the law school catalogs reveal that OSU was the only school Bob had sent scores to that wasn’t already underway. Ohio--that meant in-state tuition even though it wasn’t Chicago or Harvard. That could work.
The next step was calling our college friend Phyllis Palmer who was a grad student at OSU. She had introduced us to each other five years before. When we told her our situation, she offered to go talk to the dean of the law school. Two hours later she called back with great news. Bob was admitted on the strength of his LSAT score, subject to a transcript. No financial aid. Be there Monday.
If we left yesterday we could probably get there in time for Bob’s first class but where would we stay? Phyllis had an answer for that as well. We would live with her and her husband along with the other two grad students your room down there big house just off campus. Plus, she knew of a house across the street that we could rent for about $85 a month as soon as the current residents moved into a house they were buying. It would be a month or two. No biggie for us since who knew when the Navy would ship us our furniture. And that that wasn’t all. Phyllis also thought she could get me an instructor’s gig teaching comp lit to OSU undergrads. Really!
There are times when everything works out because the stars are aligned, but then in this instance everything worked out because of our energetic friend Phyllis. Once we moved in, Phyllis and I shared cooking duties. We used to laugh that she cut herself because she was always moving so fast. I, on the other hand, burned myself because I moved so slowly. We shared meals and social events with their grad student friends it was like we had just slipped seamlessly into their routine.
The only downside of living with the Palmer’s for a month for the occasions when David would become verbally abusive to Phyllis. She, in his estimation, rarely cooked things right and she often said things wrong. When under attack, Phyllis‘s face would turn red and the crease in her nose would turn white. She rarely took him on, but instead retreated to the kitchen. The rest of us were left sitting around the table staring at our laps.
She left him a few years later, turning up on our doorstep one night after driving to Ohio from Elmira, New York where David had a job teaching philosophy. We opened our doors and our hearts to her just as she had done for us.
As a post script, I note that my own daughter Robin lived Phyllis’s house while doing an internship in Washington DC 25 years after Bob and I shared her home in Columbus. Phyllis’s door was always open for friends, and as it turned out, their children.

Writing this tribute to the generosity of a true friend is in away a eulogy. Phyllis, who became the head of the women studies at George Washington University, died of lung cancer in 2014 at age 70. She had no children, but she was survived by her goddaughter Elisabeth and Elisabeth’s daughter Cayenne.

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