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THE OBEDIENT WIFE
In 1996 Rusty jumped at a chance to be part of a six-month NASA-related project in Florida, and he wanted to drive his family there in a trailer. So he leased out their four-bedroom house, and Andrea plunged ahead with a garage sale of furniture, Christmas ornaments and clothes. No one recalls her complaining, but her relatives could not help noticing that she saved photos and her wedding dress while Rusty focused on storing his tools and workout gear.
That November, Andrea, Noah and baby John moved into the 38-ft. trailer, setting themselves up in a recreation-vehicle community in Seminole, Fla. While Rusty worked, Andrea spent her days taking Noah and John to the beach, the park and the children's museum. Rusty was head of the household. Andrea was his partner. Their parenting skills differed, he says, but their philosophy didn't. They showed the boys the value of books, sports, the arts. Andrea taught them to shuck corn and snap green beans. She wanted them to appreciate the colors of rainbows. She let them make messes, get away with more.
In Florida, Andrea became pregnant twice, miscarrying the first time but conceiving again by the time Rusty's project ended and they drove back to Houston. She began to call herself "Fertile Myrtle."
They rented a grassy lot for their trailer home at the Lazy Days RV Campground, near a dog track in Hitchcock, Texas. Rusty had no intention of returning to the house in suburbia. Not yet. They were living out a new family motto: Travel light. "We had expenses. We didn't have a budget," Rusty says. "We just kind of lived. We took it easy."
A few months later, in 1998, Rusty came across a newsletter by an itinerant evangelist named Michael Woroniecki, whose advice had influenced him in college. Woroniecki was selling a motor home converted from a 1978 GMC bus that he, his wife and kids had used for their traveling crusade. Andrea and Noah, 4, preferred the bus to the trailer, so Rusty bought it. Noah and John slept in "the hole," a luggage compartment accessible from the cabin through a trapdoor. The 350 sq. ft. of living space would also house Paul, who would be only 17 months old when brother Luke was born.
Yet even as her brood expanded, Andrea was busy caring for her father, who had Alzheimer's and had never fully recovered from a heart attack a decade earlier. During the holidays, with her kids in tow, Andrea usually took charge, dishing up plates of food for relatives even as her own meal went cold. It was always Andrea who visited; she rarely allowed relatives to visit her, even though they lived just 30 minutes away. "We got as close as they would let you," says her brother Andrew Kennedy. "They were very private." Some thought she was embarrassed by the bus.