Leaving the Pink House, by Ladette Randolph, describes how, on September 12, 2001, Randolph and her husband bought a dilapidated farmhouse on twenty acres outside Lincoln, Nebraska, and set about gutting and rebuilding the house themselves. They had nine months to complete the work. The project, undertaken at a time of national unrest and uncertainty, led Randolph to reflect on the houses of her past and the stages of her life that played out in each, both painful and joyful.
We weren't hopeful that day in September as we headed south of Lincoln, Nebraska, on Highway 77 to look at what the ad had said was a "farmhouse on twenty acres fifteen miles from Lincoln." We couldn't help but notice as we drove, though, that instead of the usual suburban muck, the highway was lined by rolling hills, trees, well-tended farmsteads, and lovely vistas spreading out before us at the crest of each new hill.
I'd been doing this periodically—going to look at acreages—for the sake of my husband Noel. When he'd moved to Nebraska from San Francisco eleven years earlier, he'd fallen in love with the countryside in southeastern Nebraska, but he'd never particularly liked Lincoln. He preferred to live in either a large city or in the country. Not surprisingly, his dream since I'd met him had been to live in a house in the country. But at the time we married I'd protested I wasn't going to put my grade-school children on a bus to attend a consolidated school. No matter what Noel felt about Lincoln, its public schools were among the most progressive in the state.
Despite this, in recent months I'd been humoring Noel with these occasional forays into the countryside. Indeed, my argument about the children's education was growing obsolete as the elder two had already left home for college and the youngest was a junior at Lincoln High School. This was clearly something Noel wanted, and I, at times begrudgingly, admitted to myself it was his turn.
We'd seen property after property in various states of disrepair, or worse, old houses remodeled in "country" decor. Like many midwestern cities, Lincoln was developing irresponsibly, and almost every direction out of the city was lined with miles of development acreages, tract malls, and other evidence of sprawl. Our aversion to the unappealing drives and the inevitably disappointing properties on the other end had finally led Noel himself to conclude that owning a country house near Lincoln was probably impossible.