Rushing to the bathroom to grab more towels, I didn’t even see the puddle of water on the floor. It was only when I was in the air falling towards the ground in the most ungraceful way that I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me. Another leak in here too?! Christmas Eve was quickly becoming a horror film of wet proportions. But let me back up just a bit and start at the beginning of this holiday tale.
Following a showing of The Santa Clause and opening up Christmas Eve pajamas, the family descended on the kitchen so we could all put together our traditional charcuterie spread. Laughter and joy filled the air as we talked about what Santa might bring while chopping, preparing, and assembling. And it was then that we heard it…
We all turned to where Blake was in the kitchen to see her standing in front of the open fridge looking up trying to figure out what was happening. It was then that all of our sights shifted upwards towards the ceiling to see a mammoth size dark spot that, sure enough, had a steady rhythm of droplets falling from it. Okay, in all honesty, the wet spot was more like the size of a salad plate. But when there is water falling from your ceiling, especially when said ceiling belongs to a ground-level apartment? Well, that spot might as well have been a hole that the Titanic could fit through because there I stood in the kitchen mentally drowning (no pun intended) in visions of Apartment #512 crashing through the ceiling. Where’s a door when you need one?
The Bearded Gent sprang into action and grabbed a kitchen towel to start wiping the floor while directing Tanner to grab a bucket from the garage. As he disappears around the corner we all freeze when we hear…
Two more spots were discovered as I took over wiping up the floor while The Bearded Gent rungs out the door to check on Apartment #512. The kids are grabbing bowls and anything that will catch water, the Great Dane is barking at the excitement and nipping at their heels as they run through the house gathering supplies, and there I am. On my knees, wiping up water, silently pleading that Apartment #512 doesn’t land on me, all while being mocked by the half-assembled charcuterie spread sitting on the table across from me. All of this happening to the tune of Bing Crosby on the record player.
The Bearded Gent returns with news that while our upstairs neighbors have not in fact floated away, their entire kitchen was under water complete with streams coming down their pendant lights.
I turn my enlarged eyes and dropped jaw from The Bearded Gent to where he was pointing. And sure enough, all three of our pendant lights now had water streaming down them onto our kitchen island. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Or a life jacket. Which, in the moment, seemed like it would be very much needed at any moment.
Switching places with The Bearded Gent, I rushed towards our master bathroom to get more towels as I hear glass breaking in the kitchen. Where’s the film crew because we are a sitcom hit in the making. I didn’t even see the puddle of water on the floor. It was only when I was in the air doing that ungraceful falling thing I mentioned before that I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me.
Lying there for a moment to catch my breath and allow my aging body to recover as quickly as possible, water dripped from the fire sprinkler landing right next to me. But there was only one spot I could see from the glorious view I had of the entire ceiling while lying on my back. So why was I hearing a second one?
I slowly sat up and looked straight ahead and into our open closet. From the short distance, I could see a large dark spot on the floor. I got to my knees and leaned forward to get a better view. Another stream of water was coming from a fire sprinkler, but this one with enough force that it was splashing onto the pile of hidden Christmas gifts.
The Bearded Gent appeared at the entrance to our master bathroom, a bit out of breath, as I quickly explained to him the latest in this hilariously cruel holiday saga. He then does a clap and open arms motion, much like a quarterback getting ready to receive a snap, and I instinctively start chucking each Christmas gift from inside our closet, into the air, down the length of our master bathroom, to The Bearded Gent on the receiving end in our bedroom. It was coordination that would have made Nick Saban proud.
I hear him yell into the void of our bedroom while we both hoped that all five kids heard us through the sound of glass being vacuumed up. We finish saving the gifts that are now piled on the side of our bed and we grab all of the pillows and throw blankets from our bed to cover everything. Looking back, it was truly the perfect opportunity to point out to The Bearded Gent the purpose that throw pillows and throws can serve. Still kicking myself for not taking advantage of it.
We had nine buckets, pots, and bowls throughout the house catching all of the water that was actively coming from our ceiling. The water that did make it onto the floor had been wiped up. The dish that had accidentally been dropped was taken care of and we all found ourselves standing in the middle of our kitchen in silence, staring at each other as if we were waiting for the Jumanji soundtrack to start playing. Because at this point, what’s next?
I grabbed my phone from the sofa and dialed the emergency maintenance line. A hurried voice on the other end answers as I begin explaining what we were currently dealing with.
I thanked him for the information and hung up. In the quiet, I sat on the edge of the bed and took a pause. It was Christmas Eve. Nashville had been minus three degrees the day before and only nine degrees that day. The record-breaking cold had caused issues all over the city. Tennessee is just not built for that kind of cold. And there we were with our electricity working, food ready to be eaten, and gifts to put under the tree after the kids went to bed. And everyone was healthy (a huge relief after nursing Owen back to health for over a week just a few days before).
Because let’s get one thing straight. I am an excitable person with a good amount of stress running through my veins at all times. Along with that, I sometimes tend to have a “what now” type of attitude instead of a “guess what” type. I blame the last few years of endless surprises and not the good kind.
Lest you think that I have it all together or that I am the mature one, I can meltdown just as good as Clark Griswold not receiving his Christmas bonus. Or Diane Keaton in, well, any of her movies.
But there I sat. Calm, cool, and collected. Given the fact that our Christmas Eve took such a wide (and rather wet) left turn, I’m not sure where it was coming from. Maybe The Bearded Gent was starting to rub off on me after all these years. Maybe it really was because I just had a sick kid that had me worried non-stop and nothing competes with that. Or maybe it’s from experiencing and truly knowing worst-case scenarios through the years. Whatever was causing me to feel sane while our home was busting at the seams on Christmas Eve, well, let’s just say that I was beyond grateful for it.
When I walked out of the bedroom, all six of my people looked in my direction waiting for an update. I repeated what I was told by maintenance and then, recalling the mental conversation I had just had with myself, I asked them to follow suit. I told them that sometimes it is just out of our control. And while it’s not ideal, at least we had a roof over our heads, a warm place to celebrate, and each other. Healthy and happy. Just slightly soggy.
The vibe in the room quickly went from strung out to peaceful. We finished putting together our charcuterie spread while dodging buckets, pots, and bowls and talked about our favorite Christmas memories and traditions.
It would be two hours before we saw Wendell, our maintenance guy, come by and discuss what had transpired while also assessing the current damage. We expressed our apologies that he had to deal with this on Christmas, especially by himself, and he assured us that his wife was sending pictures of their boys opening gifts with family nd that it would be OK. We gathered up some of our charcuterie spread and packed it to go for him so he could at least have something to eat.
I still don’t know where it came from. Especially with how exhausted we all feel from the past year, and all that came with it, as well as the endless ache we have in wanting to finally be in our own home. Not to mention, the next day on Christmas, a water heater busted next door which ended up flooding the hallway and the boys’ bedroom that borders said hallway.
Whatever it was though, this unexpected Christmas gift of peace and contentment despite chaotic circumstances (literally happening in real time) meant everything. And I am wrapping it up and holding it close to my heart in hopes that it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Because there are a lot of plans, dreams, hopes, and goals already wrapped up in 2023 and that kind of constant reminder is a priceless commodity.
P.S. Come hell or high water (oof – these puns are stingin’ a bit!), there will always be a family portrait. As basic as the one for this year was, it’s one for the record books.