Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Sky is Falling

On Saturday I broke a plate. Nothing valuable, but a nice plate, one we liked. About one hour later I broke an old tile, acquired from my post college days at Laura Ashley, now used as a trivet. But we knew, that wasn't bad luck. Not when Friday night we walked into this,

which, when you come home to find your living room ceiling on your living room floor, gives you a little perspective on the subject of bad luck.

Kate was the first one in, "um Mom...Dad! What happened?".

What was once our lovely living room in our little Michigan home was now a soggy mess of drywall, standing water and yuck. We all stood and stared until I panicked and realized that, like the Titanic, this ship was not yet sunk. Jack just stared.

What we found was an overflowing toilet in an upstairs bath, one that had been allowed to gurgle over for the two weeks that we were away. In the coldest  winter that I can remember, we were flooded not by snow but by toilet. So fitting.

Thankfully we are quite deep in architect friends, one by one they were called, messaged and mailed, until one, home on Friday night with sick children said yes, yes we could stay. No Chicken Little, the sky was not falling, you are safe upstairs. When I woke up Saturday morning in my bed on the second floor I believed him.

The experts came on Saturday. A total loss we were told, everything in the room destroyed.

On the inherited table we had painted white, a pile of books meant for sharing: a guest book, a gift from my friend Brenda on her first visit; the Aspen book, a nod to my childhood summers, given to me by my oldest friend in the world, who spent those summers with me; a book of pictures from our trip to France last summer; a book of alliterations made by Mary and Kate's class, purchased as a school fundraiser, all soaked and ruined. Two decorating books, now needed more than ever, full of water.

The furniture, not ours long enough to develop emotional attachments, all destroyed. The one exception, a wonderful old trunk we found last summer at a sale in an abandoned church, once an antique store that hadn't been open in years. The contents, papers and photographs belonging to the previous owner, ironically safely housed in a waterproof plastic tub in the basement, waiting for a rainy day for me to sort and discover. The trunk now a warped disaster, having lived for so long to be felled by a over eager toilet.

Two rugs, one easy to replace, the other belonging once to my father, a nasty old field blanket used to cover the ground on many a Boy Scout camping trip, worth saving. It will be cleaned and dried, and loved again, now with the wear of not just my father but of this family also.

Two paintings on the walls, plus one large photograph of the girls, all spared thanks to their location on the dry side of the room. But the pictures, those kept in the wooden box Uncle Kenny gave me, pictures from every point in our lives, ones that I wander through and love to share, all sitting in water. Jack and I were up too late, peeling them from one another, covering sheets of newspaper with pictures taken by cameras that required film, pictures I have been meaning to scan for years but never did.

The ceiling can be rebuilt, the walls can be saved. All the original trim and details still in place; the one great loss, so difficult to replace, these 130 year old pine floors. They are soaked and now warping, deep valleys appearing all over the room as they dry. We'd like to save what we can, have a table made from those planks that are salvageable. Someday I hope to have floors so clean you could eat off them, at a table, in the dining room.
By Saturday night we had looked at this long enough, the incessant hum and droll of the fans and dehumidifiers too loud to enjoy the Olympic ice skating showing in the next room. We went out to dinner. Jack pulled into the roundabout, and immediately red flashing lights appeared behind us. The State Trooper inspected the car thoroughly and then, after asking for Jack's license, announced that we had a headlight out. A headlight out? That we can fix, we can deal with that kind of bad luck.


Suz said...

I am so sorry for this streak of bad luck
We learned long ago...always turn your water off when leaving....
Hope your insurance covers this

northsidefour said...

Thanks Suz. Lesson learned, and thankfully it looks like insurance is going to do what it is supposed to.

Suz said...

I sure hope you can save the pine floors....they are gorgeous
103 years old...wow what a house it must be...show some photos
We have a home in Galena....and we ran out of propane!....good thing we have someone checking on the house..and he saw it..the house was done to 40....but our water was off!
this winter has been brutal

Lisa said...

I'm so sorry, mostly for all the priceless photos you lost. Maybe Uncle Kenny has copies of some of the good ones? If you lost any from our college days, say the word! Come escape to Colorado while you are under construction!


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