Hubert married Opal – or Opal married Hubert, however it went. Opal had a daughter named Esther from her first marriage, but that husband had left her for a younger woman, or so the story goes. Opal was only 15 when Esther was born and 21 when she and Hubert got married, so Husband Number One evidently really liked ’em young. Anyway, Hubert was in the Army and Opal thought he looked very fine in his uniform. Opal was still a catch, even though she brought a little girl into the deal: her daddy had money and what was better than that, he had land and he gave some of both to Opal.
Years later, Opal would tell her granddaughters, “Make sure you go to school and get your education. That’s the one thing your husband can’t take away from you. He can take your land, but he can’t take your education.” Which kind of didn’t make sense, because she outlived Hubert so he never got her land, and then she went and willed it all to her sons so her daughters’ husbands couldn’t get it and sell it outside the family. So it seemed like her own daughters didn’t get anything.
Anyway, it was a good thing Opal’s daddy gave her that land, because there she was for years, married to Hubert and raising Esther and then five more children in a little rental house just outside the Army base, when something terrible happened. No one could say it was unexpected, but it was terrible anyway.
Opal and Hubert’s landlord wanted to sell them that little house, and they wanted to buy it. Well, Opal did, anyway. It was silly to give a big chunk of Hubert’s pay to the landlord at the beginning of every month and have nothing to show for it at the end. She took some of the money her daddy had given her and gave it to Hubert to take to town and buy the house. He didn’t come back for several days, and when he did, the money was gone but the house still wasn’t theirs. He had drunk up whatever he hadn’t spent on women, was what it came down to.
Opal was furious, but she was a smart and determined woman. She bought a whole lot of wood and paid a man five hundred dollars to build a square four-room house on the land her daddy had given her. There was a front room, a front bedroom, a kitchen, and a back bedroom. When the last nail went in, Opal packed up all six children and moved in. Esther got the front bedroom, because she was the oldest girl; the rest slept in the back bedroom, with Opal and the two younger girls in one bed and the three boys in the other.
About thirty years later, after all of the girls and two of the boys had moved away, Opal and her brother added plumbing and built on a bigger kitchen, a bathroom and a den. Hubert stayed in the den when he was at home. That part is falling down now, victim to termites and weather, but the first four rooms are solid. The strength they represent is Opal’s legacy to her daughters.