It wasn’t the worst day ever–I would never say that, because on the spectrum of bad days, this one ranks pretty low–but it wasn’t exactly one that we’d like to repeat again anytime soon.
I mean. Ever.
David was due back in from Connecticut late Thursday night. I worried about him driving–the temperatures were hovering in the single digits, and there was a continuous, fierce wind blowing that was making those temperatures feel like something more in the negative 20s. It was cold in our house–I had the thermostat set at 74, the gas fireplace roaring, and yet we shivered. I checked the thermostat–still 74, it read, though it certainly didn’t feel like t-shirt weather within the four walls of our new-to-us home. I told the kids we were going to skip their baths and showers that night–the bathroom was too cold, and I figured I’d have time in the morning to do it since their school was already on a delay.
I tucked the kids into bed. I shivered. I could hear the gas furnace turn on and off–odd, because usually the heater was absolutely silent. I sat on a chair in our family room, right by the fire, and shivered. I let the dog out, checked on the kids, crawled into bed. And shivered. Dave was due home at 11 and I was just as excited to see him as I was for the extra body heat beside me.
At 1 a.m., I woke with a start to Cian crying for me from his room. And then my racing heart went into double-time when I saw that Dave still wasn’t beside me. What’s going on? I thought it in a panic, half-asleep and not quite sure if my memory and concept of time were all that accurate. I didn’t want to get up–it was so warm! warm! under the covers–but I pushed back the blankets, leapt out of bed, and yelped. Yelped, because the cold air hit my body like an errant wave at the beach–a wave of misery, that is. My room was freezing. I walked out into the hallway, where Cian’s cry was louder, and there, too, it was bitterly cold. And then I ran downstairs–because the little fact that David was still not here took priority over the baby with a wet diaper in his crib–and I found him. One o’clock in the morning, and my husband was standing in the basement in his dress pants, burrowed under what looked like two huge sweatshirts, holding a faded HVAC filter. He looked pissed. Well, tired. But tired often looks like pissed.
“Didn’t you check the thermostat before you went to bed?” His tone was a little sharper than usual, which really isn’t all that surprising if it’s coming from a dude who’s standing in the basement in the middle of the night because he drove home to a misplaced igloo. “You said it was cold.”
I was still groggy. “WHY are you in the basement?” I finally got out. “When did you get home?”
He sighed. “At like, midnight, but I had to run back out to buy this–our furnace isn’t working. The temperature’s dropped two degrees in the last half hour. I got a new filter to see if that was the problem.”
Well, a dirty filter wasn’t the problem, and a clean one didn’t fix the furnace.
The temperature continued to drop.
Neither did a restart fix the furnace.
And it got colder still.
Nor did a good measure of swearing (Dave’s) and desperate praying to the patron saint of frozen souls (mine) fix the stupid, not-working, dearly missed, for-the-love-of-all-that-is-not-miserable furnace.
I got Cian–whose face was freezing, his toes like little popsicles under the flannel of his footie pajamas–from his crib and changed his diaper. I checked on the girls–they seemed fine–and crawled back into my bed with Cian, keeping him close to keep him warm. Cold. It was so cold. My eyes were wide open, feeling helpless but not wanting to leave the fidgeting toddler. Dave and I kept texting back and forth, with my seemingly helpful suggestions, followed by his statements of “that’s not helping, Leah”. At one point I saw the outside floodlights turn on, heard the crunch of his footsteps on the snow (bitter wind, arctic temperatures), and the creak of a ladder against the house. There was the sound of him scraping at something–the intake pipe (is that what it’s called?) to the furnace? And then the crunch of his footsteps as he came back inside.
At 3:30 a.m., I was packing the kids into the car for my mom’s house, after scaring her halfway to a heart attack by calling her in the middle of the night. Dave would stay behind by the fireplace and the animals, waiting to hear from the tech he’d placed a call to. I pleaded with him to listen for whatever sound bursting pipes make, and also not to die of hypothermia. Quinn, standing beside her bed as I helped her with her coat in the dark, rubbed her eyes: “This is like vacation!” Yes, darling, I thought. Those are exactly the words I was thinking, too.
We got to my mom’s house after 4. I headed to my old room with Cian, the two of us under flannel sheets on the twin mattress of a day bed. I do not advise ever trying to get any sleep with a two-year-old beside you. You co-sleepers of the world, I don’t know how you do it. In my experience, kids tend to sleep contentedly only if at least two of their body parts are lying on top of your face.
The girls crawled in with my mom. Reports were that they played with stuffed animals until around five, until Mom moved in between them, and finally fell asleep at some point after that. The girls slept, anyway. Two body parts per child equal a lot of appendages on my poor mom’s face. By seven a.m., everyone was up again and searching for breakfast, because our kids haven’t quite mastered the concept of I’m-tired-I-should-probably-sleep-in.
So, the day went: back and forth and back and forth the half hour each way to school. Work emails galore. Coffee galore. A placed lunch order to a restaurant in my town, made by me even though I was in my mother’s town, and lots more driving and phone calling and mild swearing. I stopped by the house to see if Dave was frozen, to find instead that our home was slowly, slowly warming up. Turns out (we think?) the intake pipe (seriously, what is that thing called?) was blocked with ice. We think. We have no idea yet. The furnace company called to say they had 10 actual emergencies with no heat whatsoever, so we agreed to push back our appointment. We had heat. Almost, anyway. A stop by the grocery store. Another stop by the school. One more stop back to the house to pick up Dave to swing down to my mom’s to see her and the kids.
Somewhere in there, Saoirse mentioned that her stomach hurt.
We were on our way home from our mom’s that night, hoping to find it still warm, prepared to turn around and head back to my mom’s for the weekend if the house was an ice block. Two out of three kids were already in their pajamas. Dave and I were talking, mostly to stay awake. He’d had two hours of sleep after his drive of four hours from Connecticut. I’d had two and a half. The kids were running on about seven hours, which you know as well as I do isn’t enough for a kiddo. We were happy to be going home. We were happy to put the day–and the night–behind us. We were going to get some rest, start fresh in the morning. It was over.
And then we heard a splash.
“Mommy? Daddy? Saoirse’s barfing in the car.”
The splashing sound kept coming. My instinct was to pull over on the side of the road, but what could I do except keep driving? We were almost home. Home was supposed to be the end of the road. The end of the day. The end of the very, very bad day. But then the whimpering started. And then some more splashing. And some more after that.
The smell that filled up the car was like one of those smoke bombs the police use when they’re trying to flush out a perp. Quinlan was huddled against the back of her carseat, where she sat beside the sister who had all of the meals of her day spewing out of her mouth. “Uh, guys?” Quinn said. “Can you get me out of here?” The smell. The SMELL. We all started gagging. Great, I thought, panicked for the second time in 18 hours. Now we’re all gonna blow.
And then we got home. I will not tell you about the hysterical seven-year-old asked to strip down in the backseat of a car in a freezing garage on a night that registered -1 on the thermometer. I will not tell you about what I had to wash out of her hair, and how I thought that I would have to tell her to chew more carefully at mealtimes, because those were some mighty big chunks that had come back up her throat. I will not tell you about the four- and two-year-old who followed us closely all through the process, commenting, touching, getting told to not do the touching, who were so interested and worried and so, so entirely getting in the way of the sobbing girl talking about how she didn’t feel well at nine o’clock at night. I will not–most definitely not–describe for you what the floor of our minivan looked like, nor the seats, nor the kids’ special blankets, nor their backpacks, and boots, and coats. I won’t tell you how the poor girl tried to catch it as it all came up, and my first sight of Saoirse after pulling into the garage was my child, hunched forward in the back seat, covered with…well, you know, with her little gloved hands cupped in front of her body because she’d tried to catch it.
I’m not going to tell you any of that, because, on this bad day on the low end of the spectrum of very bad days, we walked into our house to discover that it was warm. It was warm. We were so tired our eyes hurt, our child and car were covered in vomit, and we weren’t going to sleep for a very, very long time yet that night, but our furnace was working.
That, my friends. That means it wasn’t such a bad day after all.