The principles that guide the Johnsons are pretty straightforward — live right, love all, give back.
Simple, yes. But not always easy.
Community volunteers Eric and Elaine Johnson, along with their five perfectly poised daughters, live in a 720-square-foot A-frame with a rotting floor. The house in the 3600 block of Goodhope has serious structural issues, and, because of Hurricane Ike, unruly locks that must be manhandled by a screwdriver.
Eric and Elaine Johnson – who counsel couples and connect urban African-Americans with the outdoors – share a single bedroom with their girls, imaginative fashionistas ages 5 to 14 who gladly idealize their thrift-shop styles as personal couture.
Don’t expect a single complaint from a Johnson – this is their house. They are a family – home-schoolers with old-fashioned principles living quietly in the Third Ward.
But the quiet went gloriously boom Saturday night with two little words: Ty Pennington.
The Johnsons were at a comedy club when the darling do-gooder from TV’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition arrived with his trademark, “Heeeey, Johnson family.”
“It was emotional,” 11-year-old Zoe said. “I wanted to do flips.”
By Sunday morning, a TV crew of 80 descended near Texas 288 and Holly Hall, commandeering a few blocks around the Johnson home. Camera operators and booms drew gawks from passersby. Security was in full force and show staff stayed tight-lipped about what the Johnson home would look like this time next week.
The Johnsons, community partners with nearby St. Mary’s Methodist Church, spent hours filming for the planned “tears-free” episode coming in the fall – it hasn’t been scheduled yet.
Au revoir Houston
By 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Eric Johnson, a pharmacy technician at Texas Children’s Hospital, and his six thrilled gals were scheduled to be on a plane to Paris, where they plan to enjoy a grand tour of sites until they return Saturday.
The trip to Paris is nothing short of a dream for the family, broadening opportunities for the children and helping them find their place in a big world.
“I’m always telling them, let’s try something new today, let’s change our lives today,” Elaine Johnson said.
Angela, 14, added: “I’ve always loved French culture. I’ve always loved Paris.”
Seven-year-old Evan, who plans to run for president someday, chimed in: “We’re going to see a whole lot of beautiful stuff.”
Between now and the family’s return on Saturday, HHN, the construction firm on the project, and some 3,500 volunteers, will be replacing the Johnson house with a 4,500-square-foot, two-story structure.
Sworn to secrecy
The company’s Linda Stewart – sworn to secrecy – would say only that the house is designed specifically for the needs and hobbies of the Johnsons, whom she described as rare and extraordinary people.
“I fell in love with them the minute I met them,” she said.
“There’s something about them. They are pure. The girls are kind and smart and have purpose and are driven. And as a family unit, they are inseparable.”
Eric Johnson wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Life is simple,” he said. “The things that truly matter are internal.”