As the kids have become teenagers, it has become easier to get out of the house for an evening. Our instructions are no longer rambling missives to the babysitter with phone numbers for poison control. Our instructions now are called over our shoulders to anyone downstairs within earshot.
Saturday night, that wasn’t quite enough. There was a clog in the communication that started with a drywall guy.
Starting Friday, we stepped knee-deep into the project of converting the upstairs, walk-in attic into a livable, climate-controlled bedroom. Our girls have always shared a room. Until a year ago, they always wanted to. When they decided they no longer wanted to share, they really decided it. Like, really. And we’re not easy to convince on making big, sweeping changes. We tried to ride this one out. But it became clear that it was time to give each of them their own space and the only way to do that was with some construction.
By the end of Saturday, all of the framing was done before we left for dinner. We had made a 6:45 reservation to celebrate our anniversary at the Melting Pot. We ordered pizza for the rapscallions remaining behind. And we called out some last minute advice over our shoulder as we left. Be safe, we shouted to the one going out on the town. Don’t burn the house down, we called out to the others.
We should have been more specific
I was relaxed and happy on the way to the restaurant. We talked about garage sale fiascos that spanned the entire decade of 2000-2010 before Todd finally put his foot down and said he’d rather set himself on fire than ever host another garage sale. When we finally got seated in our private booth, I was feeling a little cocky. It was going almost too well.
But there were some apron strings still tied to home. And the texts started coming in.
The first text came in before we were even seated. It was innocent enough. The youngest texted me to ask Todd if it was okay to use the power in the attic. Could she run a load of laundry? Our attic, while being mostly converted into her new bedroom, is also the laundry room.
Sure, I said. It’s all fine.
The next text I received came in while the server was explaining the courses and describing our menu options. It seemed like pertinent information for the rest of my meal, so I had set my phone aside. I didn’t see that it was blowing up with a second series of texts. This second batch came in from our older daughter, who was relaxing in the living room on the first floor. It said something to the effect of, “I’m just going to ignore the fact that it sounds like it is raining from the upstairs into the living room.”
Her text about ignoring this obvious disturbance was immediately followed by a much more urgent text that read simply, “OHHHHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOOO.”
I hadn’t seen either text when the phone I had set aside began buzzing at my hip. I flipped it over to see who was calling and it was Lucy. I was fairly certain that she wouldn’t call about nothing. As I was deciding what to do about answering, I saw her unread “OHHHHHHH NOOOOOOOO” text on my lock screen and eliminated the “should I answer’ question.
She began with, “I don’t want to ruin your anniversary, but….”
And so it began.
The drywall guys hadn’t hooked the drain hose back up to the washer when they left for the day. Apparently they told us not to use it. They said so in Spanish. While we speak enough Spanish to ask for a bathroom and announce that the burrito is hot, we don’t know what “Don’t use the washer tonight” sounds like. So, you know. She used the washer.
And at the end of the wash cycle, instead of all that dirty, soapy water draining where washers drain, it projectile shot out into a half-constructed attic bedroom, soaked into the floor, and down into the ceiling of the living room below.
The next 30 minutes were a blur of tactical information. Where the shop vac was located and how to use it. Go get your brother. Make sure you empty the shop vac if it fills all the way up. Line up buckets under the ceiling leaks in the living room. Your typical this and that.
Meanwhile, the poor server thought we must be on the brink of calling it quits after 28 years together. She couldn’t get a word in. And there was never a “ha ha, house is flooding, sorry about the phone calls” moment in our chit chat. So she had to dance around a crisis she knew nothing about and we had to let that go.
After the crisis came the apologies. We’re sorry we did laundry. How much is fixing this going to cost? Is your dinner ruined? How’s Dad? We paid our bill after I did some fairly significant damage to the dessert plates and the chocolate fondue and headed home.
On the way home, I could tell Todd was focused on what we would walk in on. They had done a pretty good job–and when I say they, I mean Jenna–but we knew there was a totally separate clean-up phase waiting for the adults with adult skills.
But really. What did I expect?
About halfway home, I looked at Todd and said, “I wonder what we would have talked about tonight if the washer hadn’t overflowed into the attic and down into the living room?”
I guess we’ll never know.