Last night, my basement flooded. Again. I can’t express how hearing the muffled sounds of water running strikes fear in my heart.
You see, I wage war with the water in my basement. When I moved in 8 years ago, the disclosure mentioned that the basement “sometimes gets some water.” The fact that the washer and dryer were in the kitchen and not in the 650 square foot basement should have been a clue that the former owners had a different definition of the word “some.”
After I closed on the house, the first rainstorm hit, and there was ground water seeping up through every crack and crevice in the floor. The sump pump didn’t do much. So we put everything on cinder blocks and didn’t keep much down there: some boxes up on pallets, winter wear, an old couch, Christmas decorations.
My first flood happened that summer. I heard the water and went down to find ground water filling the entire basement to my ankles. My chest freezer had been lifted and flipped over. It was overwhelming. Thankfully, the important things were up high, and I didn’t lose too much. The freezer was under warranty. The water reached the bottom of the furnace and water heater, but they made it through. It was inches from the dryer, but I lucked out there, too.
It was shocking and difficult, but a good lesson for this first-time homebuyer. I moved everything into plastic tubs, and my father and brother built a platform for my laundry. For the next two years, the sound of thunder struck fear in my heart. I was often enlisting family and friends to squeegee wet floors and man shopvacs over seeping cracks. But I played it safe, and with the exception of losing a carpet or two, my paranoid watching kept the water to large puddles and wet shoes. But that basement and rainstorms were the bane of my existence for quite a while.
And I saved and I saved for those two years, and in 2009, I paid almost $8000 to have my basement waterproofed. Internal French drains, a second sump pump, re-grading of a doorway…it was all supposed to guarantee no water would come in from the ground. And it never has—the ground water was eliminated. It opened up my house. Over the years, I collected furniture and made a very nice, if low clearance, Rec room. We moved a majority of Little Man’s toys down there. One summer, a whole film crew spent hours and days lounging there as filming went on above our heads. It was glorious.
Until the summer of 2012.
It didn’t come in from the ground this time. It backed up through my washer. Sewage. Sewage to the thigh.
I lost everything. My furnace. My water heater. My washer and dryer. My grandmother’s hand-made ornaments. My child’s baby memorabilia. All his toys. Everything. It was $50,000+ worth of damage. My insurance company didn’t even cover a tenth of that.
We still wonder where an item is and then say, “Oh, nevermind. It died in the flood.”
And part of me died that day, too. A lot of memories and traditions. A lot of dreams. There I was, in my early 30s, a single mom with a loss I could never recoup. All of the things I had worked so hard to improve, to fight for, to show that I survived, were on display in that basement. I had failed.
But more than that, the most devastating losses were the things I had kept as a promise of a future: a crib, clothing in all sizes, heirlooms to pass on. All the hopes and dreams of Getting Better, of Finally Belonging, of Becoming a Family, of Finding Someone…all of it was in those boxes. And in a moment, it was gone. Swept away.
I felt unmoored.
What would I do now? It seemed silly to break down in tears over a onesie…it’s just clothing. But my baby wore that onesie home from the hospital. And all the items I was keeping for another child that could have been…all destroyed. Was it a sign? My dreams felt pretty destroyed that day, for sure.
But in that unmooring, as I wept over the broken dreams, there was space created for new ones…ones I never would have thought of had I continued to hold tightly to those things in my basement. Dreams I never knew I was longing for. Dreams like bringing a little Soccerboy here for the summer. Dreams like loving a teen girl as if she were my very own soul.
And slowly, I began to hope again. I began to believe that maybe this weird, awkward space was actually where I belonged. Maybe I was waiting for the wrong dream. So I embraced the life I had. A life that sometimes gets flooded with sewage. A life where material possessions are lost. A life where the things I hold tightest to are the souls who enter this place. Souls destined to fly away from me.
I simplified. Nothing was going to go as planned, and that was okay. I made less money and struggled more, but saw my life grow supremely richer. And I accepted the things that are true about myself, about my life. I am beautiful. I am desired. I am unique. I started to believe that it was okay to be happy.
And then yesterday, it happened again. Another flood. This time, it came from a long-ago sealed sewer pipe. The cover blew off, and two and three inches of sewage filled my basement.
I just. No.
As I woke a sleeping boy at 2am to help me start sludging and salvaging, I thought that this is just like my life. Just like my relationships. Just when I think there is something good and I start to create a new connection, sewage fills it up and bursts from all the cracks. It was silly to think that I could be happy. Me. How ridiculous.
But then I looked around. This time, we caught the flood early. This time, we had time to save some things. We didn’t lose everything. It was only $5000 worth of damage this go around. I still have heat and water and a washer and a freezer. And I have my boy, my sweet boy, sweeping sewage until almost 4:30am without a complaint.
And I am okay.
I am not the same person I was three years ago. I have come to count out what is important.
And I know some things about my heart as well. Sometimes in life, floods happen. Emotions run high. Sewage spills over. I hurt others and am hurt by them, too. I hope that these other relationships that look all mucked up at the moment aren’t damaged beyond repair. I hope that we will get the opportunity to work together to clean up mutual messes.
I just don’t want to be afraid of the thundering anymore.
I want the rains that come in life to wash away the imperfections of me. Flood out the sewage I try to pretend isn’t there, right under the surface.
And as I wait for the rains to stop and the wounds to dry a little, I know that next comes the hard work of rebuilding. It hurts to be in the muck. It’s hard to be there.
But what comes after is often beautiful. And so I will build towards that.