Twenty years ago today on March 3, 1993, I moved into my very own home on Rockbridge Lane. I would be this home's second owner and it took months to buy this place that I love. In 1948, Gladys Teer designed and built her family home. The Houston Chronicle and the original now defunct Houston Press both published stories about Gladys Teer's almost unheard of adventure of designing and serving as general contractor for her own home. They labeled Mrs. D. C. Teer an ‘amateur architect.’ In these times, she’d have gone to school to become an architect. Instead, she was a bookkeeper, her husband a pipe fitter. Gladys Teer had three daughters (as have I), and I've learned that she and their dad were lenient enough to allow the girls to roll up the 1950s Kurdistan carpet in the living room for dancing.
It took me months to secure this house and garden. It became apparent that it was hard for Mrs. Teer’s three daughters to give up their childhood home. My first bid was ignored for weeks, but my realtor kept communicating with the daughters. In October, I wrote them a letter describing my family of three daughters. I told them how much I loved the house, their mother’s garden and wondered if they would tell me more her.
Shortly before the December holidays, the sisters at last agreed to sell and they wanted to close by year-end. At a Friday afternoon closing, not one of the daughters appeared. So, after I signed paperwork, the title company was obliged to travel to Pearland and Montgomery County and – was it Austin? – for the sisters’ signatures. They asked if they could lease back the house for three days in order to clear the place out. How could I not agree?
Late Sunday afternoon, as proud new owner of my house, I drove to meet Gladys Teer's youngest daughter Shirley and her husband and most importantly, to collect the key. I learned then that they were having great angst letting go of the family home, because they inadvertently locked the only key inside the house. No one could enter. Not the old owner, not the new owner.
At last, on Monday morning, my realtor and I retrieved another key and we unlocked the front door for a second look at the interior of my new house. I loved every inch of it and proceeded to lay plans.
In January, I called my architect friend Tom Wilson and asked for a few hours of his time to suggest how I might ‘open up’ the house. Most of all, I wanted to move the windowless and small dining room into the pine paneled den. We sheetrocked, raised the ceiling up through the attic and added two big new windows. The den-turned-dining-room now overlooked the garden and has glorious light.
With Mom and Dad’s financial help, the original dining room became a library and the space is now floor to ceiling with books. It immediately christened The Thompson Memorial Library.
Kitchen walls had termite damage, so we resheetrocked there too. And I added a floor to ceiling shelf that's filled with Mexican pottery.
Oak floors were refinished. Every room was repainted. I left bits of the master bedroom's original wallpaper, spackling and painting around the roses.
I also left the antiquated and very small master bathroom alone. Its pink and magenta tiles seemed so horrific that I painted the walls chartreuse and the ceiling aqua.
Last spring I visited Gladys Teer's youngest daughter in New Branfels. Shirley had stories to tell and pictures to show. She even had that living room carpet in her garage. I brought it home, had it cleaned and it's in the back bedroom. We probably won't roll it up for dancing, but it is again a part of this house.
Here's Gladys Teer's bedroom and a portion of her dining room. She had a lot of family photos and plenty of knickknacks. We have different tastes, but I'd say that both of us have a passion for collecting and covering walls and surfaces with things we love.
Throughout these twenty years, there have been countless times after a busy day at work, that I’d walk toward the front door with key in hand and say to myself, “This is my very own house. This is my house. This is my place. I love this house.”