“Mommy, it’s raining in the house!”
Six words, delivered with a mixture of “that’s not normal around here,” and “is this really cool or really scary? I can’t tell just yet,” perfectly framed what would become the next months of home life.
Swinging the door open that summery Monday afternoon first revealed a wet floor in the rear foyer.
Looking up to try and discern how the floor got wet revealed the light fixture, overflowing with water and creating a steady sprinkle over the room.
It was coming from upstairs. The laundry room is upstairs. Darting through the raindrops to dash through the house, my mind registered the fact that the kitchen looked unusually wet, too.
The sound from the washing machine compelled me to keep running, up to find an overflowing machine that hadn’t stopped calling for water to wash two princess costumes. For 9 hours.
1,300 gallons is a lot of water.
Enough to make splashable puddles in the middle of your kitchen’s work triangle.
Enough to forget all about the CSA box you half-dropped, half-threw into the living room because things didn’t look like they were wet in there.
Enough to make you grab the tiny hand of the astute observer who pointed out all that rain to begin with and suggest we go outside to enjoy the beautiful weather while mommy makes a few calls.
The next 12 hours were a bleary-eyed blur of phone calls. Takeout meals. Pushing bedtime back to minimize the chances a child would wake up frightened by the noise of the industrial blowers and dehumidifiers beginning what would become a two-week effort to dry out the three levels of water damage wrought on that day.
In the first week a collection of walls, ceilings and floors were carefully cut and carried out of the house. Cabinets were removed and set aside. Baseboards, window trim stacked neatly in a corner. There was the constant din of fans that could be arranged so that a certain writer could stand in the middle and look a lot like one of Beyonce’s backup dancers flirting with her wind machines.
Those fans warmed the house and the breaker box, creating a carefully-choreographed light and power dance to use a coffee maker or turn on the lights. We shrank our domestic footprint, moving essential appliances out of the kitchen to create a makeshift food prep area in the dining room, pulling out the stockpiled paper plates and plastic flatware.
The front and rear foyers merged to create a mountain range of coats and grocery totes that seemed to float everywhere.
We visited the local laundromat, a place our son came to identify as “peaceful.” Seriously. He even told his teacher one day how he got a ton of reading done at the Laundromat the night before.
The litterbox was moved into the master bath, as the cat refused to leave the only really quiet and dry room in the house. That, right there, was perhaps the greatest hardship of the first two weeks. Until you share a bathroom with a cat, you will not understand.
After two weeks the plastic drape was torn away, fans and dehumidifiers loaded into the van, and a final sense of “next” settled in with the newfound silence.
Some silence was grief. No words that could accurately describe the dread, relief, anguish, self-blame, anticipation of some suspicious dripping sound that could start the whole damn thing over again. Some silence was just quiet.
Quiet it was, for a few more weeks, until contractors made their visits, wrote estimates, and offered up their bids. Then the noise started: an internal noise that grew louder and louder as we struggled to feel sure of what to do next; how to trust a situation that was a completely new experience, with seemingly zero margin for error.
Much like a person plunged into sudden darkness, afraid to misstep in the suffocating black, our eyes have adjusted. Our minds have cleared. And now, our way forward is beginning.