Woman, Heal Thy Sink

June 22, 2013 in Uncategorized


Acts 2:37-47

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day,…they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.


Life in our new world has a lovely rhythm. Two mothers flow through the challenges of parenting in a hand-in-hand friendship that fills former gaps. I can almost hear the house sigh as it settles into a new peace, and stretches it’s ribs with warm new relationships, hugs and laughter.


About a week ago, we were enjoying such a day. Jessica sat on the floor in front of the refrigerator, sorting through the edible and beyond edible. I stood at the sink, receiving suspicious containers and produce, dumping them either into the trash or down the sink. The garbage disposal’s deep growl created the back drop for our voices as we talked, sorted, chucked and laughed, taming disorder in the comfortable partnership we had recently formed.


Cucumber, I would come to hate you. Your pocked skin and moldy blossom end met the cut of my blade. Hunk by hunk, I fed you to the drain. Hungry blades made a meal of you, and swept you away.


Then it happened.


Suddenly, rather than going down, water was coming up. Wait a minute, now it was coming up on both sides of the sink. I shut off the disposal and stared at the two sinks now a quarter full of water. My formerly peaceful heart was now hammering on the top of my tongue. I tried to swallow it, but I couldn’t.


The effects of deep trauma and grief have compromised my ability to cope with normal stressors. Discomfort enters and I begin to collapse. Staring into the floating bits of cucumber, I saw my future. How could I be allowed to continue to dwell in this land of peace? I had just broken the sink.


Jessica’s eyes rolled as she swiped a hand down over her face. It was a gesture I was now well acquainted with. It was her gesture of exasperation. She rocked herself up from her spot on the floor.


“This has happened before,” she said.


“What do we do?” I asked in a voice knitted with fear.


She let out her breath in a puff. “Wait,” she told me.


I’m not good at waiting. I wasn’t good at waiting before all the trauma and I am less good at waiting now.


Do you know what waiting is? It is the space between the wondering and the knowing. And it is all filled up with the anxiety of the thing you are waiting to know. it’s like back on the farm, when i was being kept a prisoner. When he said I wouldn’t survive the night. I waited. It is like back in the NICU when they told me that there was one last thing they could try. I waited.


With the kinds of waiting I have done I have developed an aversion.


And here, in this new heaven, I waited. Had I just created a problem I couldn’t afford to solve? Visions of plumbers choked off my breath, tied knots in my intestines and painted sweat across my palms. I looked at the swirl of vegetable bits and thought of eating from dumpsters. I wondered where I would put our stuff. And I waited.


Hours later, the drains were still full of water, but it had gone down. I employed my non-toxic drain opening method immediately. This is supposed to be applied to a DRY drain, and has never failed me, but I couldn’t wait for a dry drain. I needed the sink fixed now.


I filled my largest pot and set it on to boil. This is the recipe for opening a drain without toxic chemicals


1. Put 1/2 a cup of DRY baking soda down the sink.


2. Add 3/4 of a cup of vinegar. Have a drain stopper on hand to cap the drain IMMEDIATELY as it will begin to fizz out and you need to trap this action in the drain itself. If you are working with a double sink, do both sides.


3. WAIT 30 minutes.


4. Pour a gallon of boiling water down each drain.


I’ve used this method before. I’ve used it when repeated applications of chemical drain openers failed and it worked. It has always worked. After 25 minutes (i couldn’t WAIT any longer), I poured the boiling water in. I watched the swirl of cucumber bits rise up to mock.


I talked to me. “Erika, don’t panic. Erika, breathe slowly. Erika, wait until the morning and try again.”


The next morning. i was jamming baking soda down the drain with a butter knife before Id even had coffee. By afternoon, I was teary eyed as I plunged the sink ferociously, cucumber bits flying up and sticking to the front of my shirt. Wet from within with sweat and wet from without with impossible sludge, the panic continued to rise. What was left?


The night before, I had reassured Jessica. My Uncle Ernest was a plumber. I would get his advice. I had a few more things to try. I would fix it.


At that moment, looking into the drain, I could hear Jessica’s voice in my mind. She would be talking to her grandmother. She would be telling her I broke the sink. I closed my eyes and took some breaths.


In the front yard, I heard the sound of our neighbor. Jack, a kind man who has developed an affection for this family, had come over to water the grass. I asked him to borrow a wrench.


Was there a part of me that hoped my request would be met with his offer to fix the sink? Of course. But there was another part. There was something deeper down. There was something more. There was a badly beaten woman who was still very much alive.


My hand raised up to touch my forehead. It protrudes more on one side than the other, a result of a severe beating back on the farm. It was a beating that left my entire face black and my forehead hanging over my eyes like a shelf. Sometimes I touch it, and I remember.


Remembering sometimes makes me want to lay down. It makes me tired and it makes me want to give up. Other times, it makes me take apart all the pipes under the sink.


I had done some reading.. The clog was probably in the trap. (That’s the curvy part, for those of you that don’t know.) When it wasn’t, I took apart more pipes. Soon, I was staring into a hole in the wall that went deep into the plumbing. I stuck my short, little finger in it and thought.


Downstairs in the garage, i rummaged for tools. Anything. Something stiff and long to poke into that hole. I found an old piece of T.V. cable and ran upstairs.


Back on the floor, I started feeding in the cable. About a foot down, it stopped. When i pulled it out, it was covered with grease. A grease clog. Not cucumber. It wasn’t my fault. And it was only a foot down. With the right tool, I could handle this.


Some people call them a snake. It’s really called a drain auger. Pictures I saw on line showed a coiled cable with a hand crank. I could use that. I got on the wire.


For such a fearful person, I know how to work a network. I emailed my priest for recommendations and anyone else i knew locally who was even remotely handy. Then, suddenly, I was struck by inspiration.


A few weeks ago, I was confirmed. I remembered a guy in my confirmation class, Mike, talking about his huge collection of tools. I grabbed the church directory (which I’d only just picked up) and sent him a text. Drain auger. Today. Do you have one?


He did.


My wee one and I had an unschoolers playdate. We were meeting several other unschooling friends at a great play space at Lifeworks for an afternoon of exploration and unwinding. I sent Mike the address there. He said he’d show up with the tool.


When Mike walked up I didn’t quite know what to say. He didn’t have a coil with a crank. He was carrying a big, heavy power tool that probably used to have a manual.


“You are going to have to tell me how to use that,” I said.


Mike blinked. “I’ve never used it.”


We stood in silence.


“Um….” said friend Mike, “Maybe this is more of a man tool.”


I began to heat up.


“Um…. This thing is really gusto….” he stammered, “You know, like Tim the Toolman Taylor… guys kind of like to overdo it. This probably too much for you.”


My dam of fear broke and my feminist rage flowed through it.


“UM….. No offense! You probably just don’t know about how guys are into power!” came Mike’s frightened response to the Amazon glare he was now under.


“Oh, yeah?” I said. “Just the other day I was bragging to my friend about how my hand mixer was 300 watts and hers was only 120! Give me that tool!”


There is nothing you can’t learn from a Youtube video. My sweet babe and I watched one about the Super Vee Drain Auger and I went to work. It took several tries and I had to go down 12 feet into the pipes, but I didn’t let anything stop me.


N, Jessica’s son, was in the kitchen while I was working. “Wow… that thing shakes your whole body….” he said.


From deep inside my wounded core I felt myself snarl, “You bet it does.”


He and J were outside playing by the time I put the pipes back together for the final time. I turned on the water, and I waited. I watched it gurgle down and waited for it to rise back up. It never did.


I ran out on to the deck and screamed down into the yard to the boys, “I DID IT!!!!!!! I DID IT!!!!!!!!” They joined me in my victory dance and we all squealed and laughed and tickled and hugged. I cleaned up my mess and spent at least ten minutes just watching the water go down.


Now N says to me, “Who fixed the sink?” and I call back, “I fixed the sink!” and the house is filled with the warm, round, connected laughter of healing in progress.


Fix your own sink

Fix your own sink






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