Well, gee, I finished writing this article and then discovered that this week’s Works-for-Me Wednesday asks writers to submit our most important post of 2010. This isn’t it! And my lunch break is almost over! I don’t have time today to write about the most crucial lesson I learned in 2010, which is that the misery of migraines can be reduced and sometimes eliminated if only I use my migraine treatment right away instead of making some excuse about why I shouldn’t–I’ll write more about that soon. Meanwhile, I’d say my most important post of 2010 is It’s Only Monday.
This week, I’ve been grateful that the big blizzard bypassed Pittsburgh so that my relatives were able to travel to and from our house safely and conveniently, and while they were here we had just exactly enough snow on the ground to call it a white Christmas! I’ve also been reflecting on the big blizzard that did hit us in early February.
We were having a rough time then. The huge snowstorm was one more thing added to a load of trying to do too many things at once, my migraines, Daniel’s back pain, arguments between us, an unsuccessful attempt to resolve a conflict with a long-distance friend, deadlines at work, our son Nicholas’s misbehavior, and my getting very sick with a virus just before I was supposed to work as a cook for a weekend at Girl Scout camp. The snow came just in time for camp to be canceled, so instead of stressing myself out trying to do that, I was able to get some rest . . . except for shoveling two feet of snow off our sidewalk, since Daniel’s back wasn’t up to it and somebody had to do it!
Although we had electricity and all our other utilities throughout the blizzard and were very grateful for that, the gutter downspout on the back of our house filled with ice and burst, creating a gigantic three-story icicle. It melted gradually and didn’t rip off any of our siding, but little drips of water crawled up under the siding and through the walls, making wet spots on the wallboard of our downstairs bathroom and causing the surface of the wall to peel. This was how we figured out what had made the weird, V-shaped peeling spots that were already on those walls when we moved in. We’d always planned to scrape and patch the walls someday, but meanwhile we’d covered the walls by stapling up fabric. That, plus our tendency to prefer the upstairs bathroom in winter because the downstairs one is cold and drafty, helps to explain why we didn’t realize the extent of the damage.
Our downstairs “bathroom” is really more like a storage room with a toilet in it; the other end of the room has some shelves against the inner wall, and stacked against the outer walls is the “yard sale pile” of things we’re planning to give away. About two weeks after the blizzard, we began to notice that the wet yucky smell in there was getting stronger, not dissipating, and had to admit that something other than the wallboard must be wet. We needed to pull everything out of there and clean up the wetness. But we were so busy! It took us another week or so to get around to it.
Finally, Daniel and I agreed to stay up late on a Saturday night to tackle this thrilling task. I stood in the kitchen, and he passed things through the bathroom door to me. At first it didn’t seem too bad: The folding chairs that we use for parties were standing in a pool of slimy water speckled with roof tar, but their rubber feet weren’t damaged at all. Everything on the shelves was dry. The water had missed an old lamp by half an inch.
But then Daniel passed me a large paper bag full of yard-sale stuff, and as I took hold of the top edge, the bottom fell out, dumping twenty-seven pairs of wet, dirty, smelly socks onto our kitchen floor. How the heck did we come to have so many unwanted socks?? I’m not sure I can fully answer that question, but some of the socks were infant and toddler sizes Nicholas had outgrown, and Daniel’s mother had brought us some stuff she didn’t want that included a surprisingly large number of socks, and when we’d taken stuff to Goodwill we’d left socks at home because they don’t sell used socks that show signs of wear–but we figured we could give them for free to someone who wanted to make sock puppets or needed cleaning rags.
But now they were soaked with dirty roof-water and whatever had managed to grow in it (in a room whose peak winter temperature is about 55 degrees) in a month of soaking. Ewww! Well, there were enough of them (plus a few other damp garments we found) to make a full washing-machine load. Hot cycle. Oxi-Clean. It was when I was hanging the now clean and fresh-smelling socks on the drying rack that I had a brilliant idea.
Two days later, I told Nicholas (then five years old) that I had a new matching game for him to play. I took him down to the basement, pointed out the fifty-four socks hung in random order, and handed him a box. He happily began to find pairs and fold them in his own fashion (which may not look proper but does hold them together) while exclaiming over the variety of socks. Soon they were ready to return to the yard-sale pile in the now cleaned and dry storage area.
Of course, given the young child’s desire for repetition, I had to tolerate a few rounds of Nicholas getting out the socks again, scattering them all over the kitchen floor, and repeating the matching game. But hey, it was brain-strengthening practice in classification skills, it was fun for him, and it meant that I didn’t have to fold all those socks! It worked for me!