In between the renovations, I’ve been keeping a notebook of the various sundries that have popped up in conversation regarding the house. The inconsistencies are pretty glaring, especially when they show up in writing; I mentioned a while back how everyone swears up and down the Jarrells had this house custom-built, but that Mary Jarrell didn’t once mention the process, or any details of the house itself, in her bio/autobiography of her time with Randall. As Mary J. seemed to place an emphasis on The Finer Things, I thought this was rather strange oversight.
There are loads of other inconsistencies and some of these contradict our original assumptions of the history of the house and its occupants. I’ve been spending some time with our next-door neighbor. Let’s call her, oh… Janet. She’s lived in the neighborhood since 1956, and in her current home since 1961, and she says the Jarrells moved into the house beside hers not long after. At one point, she said the Jarrells moved in during 1961; later in our conversation, she put that date in 1963. The documents we have for this home put its construction in 1958. It’s universally accepted the Jarrells were the first owners, but if that’s the case, four to seven years is a long time for a new house to remain empty. I need to go get my hands dirty in a hall of records somewhere, I think, because either the Jarrells were not the first homeowners, or the house was not built in 1958, or there’s another layer to the story hiding somewhere in that gap.
Some other tidbits from Janet: Randall Jarrell used to walk around his yard in sandals and baggy pants held up by a rope. Contrary to what we have heard, Randall did not like parties; Mary was the entertainer and had her friends over so often she had to stash her spare out-of-town guests in Janet’s house. Mary was the one who loved to travel, Mary was the one who enjoyed shopping, and Mary was the one who kept adding new features to the house such as the skylights and the pool. I got the impression that Randall was more reserved as a person than how he comes across in print, sort of a poet’s version of the Nerd-Do-Well who married the attractive socialite.
Not that Mary Jarrell wasn’t an author in her own right, but there might have been… hm, how to say… some disparity in skill? Both were active in poetry and literary criticism and each wrote children’s books, but Randall’s children’s books were classics such as The Bat-Poet and The Animal Family, while Mary penned works such as The Knee-Baby.
(Point of interest – “knee baby” is a Southern colloquialism for a toddler who has yet to outgrow that clingy phase and has a newborn sibling. However, if you’re anything like me, when you hear it you think…)
Can’t really end on a better note than that. More on this later. OH! Except Janet says the house used to be a deep earthy brown. So the current shade of frog-flipping green was selected after the Seventies had ended.
Choices, people! CHOICES.