It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “when.” Whenever we have company, we have a crisis.
So when my brother-in-law woke us on Thanksgiving Day morning with the news that the house had no water, it wasn’t really that surprising.
It’s often a water problem for us. Some years, like this year, there’s not enough water, but we’ve also had the opposite problem: too much water.
Way back when we lived in rural Kentucky, our water came from a well. The first time I put my foot down and refused to travel for Christmas, we had both grandmothers visit to see their almost two year old granddaughter. That was the year the pump went out on Christmas Eve. The only water we had available was in the recycled plastic milk jugs that I kept in a back room.
One nice thing about small towns, you know people. We knew the owner of the only hardware store in town well enough to get him away from his Christmas Eve dinner to open the store and find us the pump we needed. That night, when Santa stopped to leave some gifts, he saw us with flash lights and heavy coats, wrestling the new pump into place.
Then there was the Christmas with too much water. We left our new house in Heber Springs, Arkansas for some last minute shopping. Back when we lived in Heber Springs, the closest Toys-R-Us was in North Little Rock, about an hour and a half away. We loaded up the station wagon and made the trek down on a cold winter day, just hours before the arrival of those same two grandmothers.
We knew there was something wrong as soon as we opened the garage door. Water was leaking out the door to the kitchen. We left the kids strapped in their car seats and carefully opened the door. Whoosh. The kitchen was flooded.
It turned out that the pipes to the upstairs bathroom passed through the uninsulated garage and then went over the master bedroom. The break was directly over the bedroom.
When the grandmothers arrived the next day – one from California and the other from Louisville, Kentucky – we had the flooring torn up in half the house, and a air mattress on the subfloor of the master bedroom.
The biggest family gathering we have ever hosted was earlier this year when our son got married. Everyone came. Both my husband’s sisters, my sister and brother, all their kids and even a third generation – my brother’s grandchildren. But how do you put up 17 people? We started looking for a rental house that we could book for the weekend, but all of them were too far away. Then we had a brainstorm. The house two doors up from us had already been on the market for a year or so. It was completely furnished, but no one was living there. We knew the owners well enough to ask for a big favor, and they agreed, we moved eight of our guests in for the weekend.
It was right before the wedding when the septic tank backed up into the bathroom and all water use in the borrowed home was immediately terminated. We had 16 people sharing our two bathrooms preparing for the wedding.
Luckily, we knew a good plumber because when his sister visited the year before our septic tank backed up into our bathroom and she immediately moved to our daughter’s house in town.
One of my favorite Christmas crisis stories was a simple misunderstanding. At least it seemed simple to me. I’m not sure our neighbors in New Haven, Indiana ever understood what was going on.
We got home from an early Christmas Eve church service and I turned on the oven so I could heat the bread. I forgot that the bottom of the oven was covered with apple pie overflow from my earlier baking. My husband’s family always has lobster for dinner on Christmas Eve. So while I got the water on to boil, he went out to the garage and brought in the little cardboard boxes of live lobsters.
About the time, the big pots of water started to boil, the oven started smoking as the apple pie juice burned. Naturally, all the smoke alarms went off. In spite of the freezing temperatures, I threw open the kitchen window to let the smoke out and my husband started chasing the kids around the house with a live lobster. The smoke alarm was blaring, the kids were screaming, smoke was billowing out the kitchen window and one of the kids flung open the front door to escape the lobster. The entire family, still dressed for church but minus coats and shoes, erupted out of the front door screaming and laughing. The neighbors called 911. I can’t imagine exactly what they told the dispatcher.
Thanksgiving this year was saved by the quick work of the water department. About the time I put the turkey into the oven, the water came back on and we able to cook the potatoes, squash, and my sister’s turnips without any problems. The kids came over, the neighbors came down and no one even had to call 911.
Let’s just hope Christmas goes as well.