Back to Reality

Sometimes you get home from a week away and find that the pipes have all burst.

That happened to us one winter. We went to my sister’s in Florida, leaving a 20-year-old house-sitter here with the cats.

Her phone call to us three days later was so sweet:

“Well,” she said “things are fine, really. But it’s 33 degrees in the living room and the cats and I are under the electric blanket in your bed.”

She was such a dear. She was from Austria where for all I know it’s 33 degrees in everyone’s living room.

Or maybe being just three months in the States, she thought this was normal for us.

“Thirty-three degrees!” David yelped when I conveyed the news to him. “The pipes are going to burst !”

This was at 3:00 in the afternoon and even down in Florida we knew that temps back on our northerly shores were headed down to zero.

The pipes burst all right. It was New Year’s Day and we couldn’t get hold of the furnace man in time and when we came home the whole first floor was under water.

It wasn’t that bad this time.

This time we came home from our week on Kiawah Island to rain and 56 degrees. Our floors were just fine however. And our nice neighbor Henry had brought in all our mail and kept an eagle eye on the needs of my zillion house plants, still enjoying summer camp on our screened-in porch.

The problem we faced – or rather the problem I personally faced – is the problem I came home with, and isn’t that always the way? My problem continues to be a computer riddled with viruses and an external disk drive so oddly configured by well-meaning amateurs that even the guy at the Apple store couldn’t discern what was on it. I can’t use the new Mac Book until I can bring 30 years of writing over. So it’s back to a period of speechlessness for a while as the files are being ritually cleansed and then brought over, because really how much can a journalist produce just using her smart phone and I-Pad?

I realize that in the last week I have written more about my family than is my custom and am grateful to all who bothered to read it all. We were all together except for Carrie’s wife Christine, ‘Mama’ to those three young children while Carrie is ‘Mum.’ Chris just couldn’t take the week off work and we sure did miss her. Hopefully she will be with us next time, in five more years, when Eddie will be 13 and David 10 and little Callie 5, and who knows? There may even be other little ones by then.

Carrie took this picture of little David at Olde Charles Towne Landing where she brought both boys for an outing while we stay-behind adults worked together to mind one 13-pound baby.

He asked his mother to take it, which almost never happens. He wears an expression on his face her I find very interesting. I can’t say in what it means but it strikes me as oddly reassuring. He looks so content, and assured of something….

Do the young see more than the rest of us? Does he see the day when his little lisp will vanish and he will tower over his parents rather than vice versa? Can he imagine the day when he will perhaps speak at the funeral of these grandparents he spent a week with in the summer when he was five?

Who knows what lies ahead, whether leak or flood or cascades of virus? We are kids ourselves, in the backward -facing seat of that classic old station wagon. We see only where we have been, and thank God for that.

9 thoughts on “Back to Reality

  1. Terri, your family is infinitely interesting because your prose and pictures are charged with affection that feels universal. Thank you for every column you post and every picture, too. You add joy to each of my days with this generosity. Good luck with tech stuff.

  2. Little David is growing fast! I was looking at pictures of my youngest granddaughter last week and here she is about to graduate in NC as a respitory therapist. Did I spell that right? It looks odd. And she is the mother of two of my great grandchildren! My goodness, time does fly! I’ve had problems with my PC, too and my son is discussing with me buying a new computer, maybe a laptop and I want a new printer/scanner and a stand alone hard drive. The news about Facebook wasn’t so great tonight but if they do start selling my personal info, I will close my account. Maybe it’s done already – I am getting an awful lot of junk mail several times a day. T, how on earth did you get all that water out? Hugs, Andrea

  3. Hi T, we can sympathize. Winter, 36 years ago, we came back from MA to find the fire dept. pumping our basement. Our dear friend, God rest his soul, notified them when we lost power to our 75 yr old home. Most of the cast iron radiators and pipes had burst. Thankfully, the fire dept. shut off the gas to the underwater furnace, and the electricity to the like washer and dryer. I lost 25 plants, raised from friends cuttings, but we still have a 40 yr old snake plant that’s as tall as me. Our T still has that house. She gutted some of the plaster walls, rewired and plumbed, while renovating. It still retains it’s English Tudor charm. Speaking of charm, David is charming. Time does fly, Andrea. Yesterday was our 44th anniversary. We actually came out $30 ahead at our own Charles Town Races and Slots. Miss you. Love reading your blogs. Bernice

    1. I remember dimly when you got married! I remember how sweet Sull was when I first brought shy David who he had never met, to your family home . He bounded right over and shook his hand. “congratulations on your enagagement!” he said. “Nothing’s definite,” joked Dave. That’s when I found out a person could be shy on the surface and pretty crafty underneath!

      I never saw that NJ house except in pictures.. What was the address again? I will look for it on Google Maps. Hoover Road?

  4. Terry, as I scrolled down to the photo of David Clancy, seeing only his eyes and forehead, I thought it was you! Then the rest of his face came into view telling me he’s a Marotta as well as a Sheehy! It’s an adorably poignant shot.
    The last two sentences of this writing with the station wagon metaphor are beautifully conceived and took my breath away.
    I love you,
    P.S. I can picture the green station wagon with the wood side panels that Grace and Cal drove; and campers who fainted at mass got to ride up the hill in!

  5. I can’t imagine I really made up that metaphor. it must be out there in the world right?
    Thanks so much for this picture of the old camp station wagon, which was JUST as you describe it here. I was one of the fainters! Were you?
    Love you lots G

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