Over the weekend, one of our toilet pipes froze and burst after the temperature got down to -12degF overnight. When it had frozen but not yet started leaking, we frantically tried to warm it up with a hair dryer and space heater, but all we really did was prompt the water to melt faster and eventually spray out of the already-damaged piece of pipe. Luckily we were in the basement having a look at the crawl space under the bathroom when it happened, so we were able to shut off the water right away and clean up the stray water with towels. It was a low moment for morale in the Ranger house and yet another example of Boston loudly telling us we don’t quite fit in up here.
Nate set to work finding a plumber who could make an emergency weekend house call even in the midst of many such calls from Massachusetts residents who were without heat and/or also experiencing burst pipes. It was a tough challenge, but he managed to find a competent-sounding dude who could come on Sunday.
We ended up having to shut off the main water line because the shut-off valve going to the bathroom wasn’t working, so that meant we had no water for cleaning and flushing the toilet. Luckily we had plenty of snow in the backyard. After gathering a bucket of it, I went on Instagram proclaiming my new status as Ma Ingalls. As I was heating up water to do dishes, it occurred to me how blessed we are in our daily lives to have all the cheap, clean, convenient, hot water we could want, not to mention a dishwasher and washing machine to do the heavy cleaning.
When the kids began to notice the changes around the house that day, I tried to make it sound like an adventure. That part came easily to me since I was able to draw from a wealth of memories from my own childhood. I thought of all the strong women in my life–my mom, aunts, and grandmas–who did an excellent job imbuing me with the sense that I could overcome any obstacle, that nothing could hurt me because I was loved, and that life was beautiful. I hope I pass on that courage to my daughters.
My favorite moment when we turned the water on was Charlie excitedly exclaiming, “Now we can wipe and flush again!” It’s the little things.
Looking back, I see that what we had was the best case scenario of where and when a pipe could have frozen in our house to cause the least amount of damage. It happened in the downstairs bathroom, located at a corner of the house over the basement. It also served as a great learning experience for us southerners. But you wouldn’t have known that positive spin at the time to hear all of our moaning and griping to our parents about how “maybe we’re not cut out to be homeowners after all.” Fortunately our parents are all good, patient listeners who take hyperbole like that with a grain of salt.
The plumber was an honest, hardworking guy out of Weymouth who fixed the faulty pipe in just and hour and a half. He notably charged us less than last year’s guy who took five minutes to replace our range’s gas valve. Let me know if you’re in my area and need a good plumber. Now there’s a sizable hole in our bathroom floor, but it was old linoleum that could have used replacing anyhow. No big deal. And did I mention no water damage?
In hindsight, I am happy this lesson came to me so cheaply, reminding me to be grateful for all that I have, especially for our water, which I will try harder to conserve. I went on water.org today and pledged support to those who don’t have the same luxuries as we do. Writing that reminds me of the old Friends episode in which Phoebe tells Joey there’s no truly selfless good deed. But now you know about water.org! They do good work.
I know there are a lot of you who are getting this blast of cold weather today. If you need a laugh, my favorite account of what the cold feels like comes from Jezebel. But on a more serious note, if you want advice for how to handle your pipes to prevent breaks like the one we experienced, check out what the Red Cross has to say and of course listen to Richard, my favorite plumber (p.s. our crack on the toilet copper pipe looked exactly like the one he shows, and it happened on the joint as he says).