About a week after “safe-at-home” became the way we play the game of life, we were visited by a storm. This shushing, persistent deluge of white noise lasted through the night and late into the next morning.
I awakened to an unexpected, uninvited guest. Something told me to inspect the basement, where I was greeted by at least ten inches of sewer water. This guest had entered through the drain in the cellar floor, and vandalized the place.
Floating in that nastiness were craft and workshop supplies. Soaked handouts drifted from cardboard boxes, along with twenty years of preschool items, some of my husband’s old tools, things our grown children had left behind, and sundry other items, including the laundry I’d sorted into three baskets—mostly my clothes and all my white underwear.
I numbly summoned my husband. What he said when he met our guest should not be repeated.
Then the furnace and water heater passed out. Fortunately, they didn’t die. An already exhausted heating and furnace repair person returned our call, suggesting we try letting the circuit breakers dry. It was almost midnight. The water had subsided. We prepared to pay for more visitors: appraisers, hauling crews, plumbing aficionados, and the microbial cleaning squad.
Please note: I didn’t say anything about insurance people. “Backup” insurance is a separate entity from “flood” insurance. We had no backup insurance. We do now.
We also lost all the paper items we stored in what we call the “paper closet” under the basement stairs. We’d purchased our usual bulk supplies long before the run on toilet paper. Now our stockpile was gone.
That was a good thing. One young man, dragging items from our basement and tossing them in his truck, said, “It’s a good thing you had all that paper. It absorbed the water and saved your bottom steps.”
Who knew that toilet paper could swell to the size of Miss Muffet’s tuffet? We were grateful for that.
We’re grateful for a lot of things. The basement is clean. It is also dry, dehumidified and sanitized. The water heater and furnace circuit breakers dried out on their own (free!). The house creaks a bit more, as does our budget. But we’re warm, safe and happy. And I have new underwear.
Our unexpected guest helped us realize and appreciate what is important. Life is good. And I hope this guest doesn’t invite himself to our home again.
The Guest House
by Rumi (as translated by Coleman Barks)
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
Fourth-generation nationally recognized Affrilachian storyteller and Ohio teaching artist Lynette (Lyn) Ford will returning to teach for the TLA Network this summer. Fantastic Folktales & Visionary Angles to Transform Our Stories, starts in early August and is not to be missed.
Lyn has shared programs and workshops on telling and writing stories with folks of all ages for more than twenty-five years. Lyn’s work is published in several storytelling-in-education resources, as well as in her award-winning books: Affrilachian Tales; Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition; Beyond the Briar Patch: Affrilachian Folktales, Food and Folklore; Hot Wind, Boiling Rain: Scary Stories for Strong Hearts (2017 Storytelling World Award winner, also a creative-writing resource), and, Boo-Tickle Tales: Not-So-Scary Stories for Ages 4-9, written with storytelling friend, Sherry Norfolk and recently nominated for an Anne Izard Award. Lyn is also a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher and a great-grandmother.