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The tale of Sir Big Dad

Rachel BarlowNobility is often born, but it does not always happen the way you might think. Certainly one can be born into a noble house. (One can have nobility conferred upon oneself, but that’s not really being born is it?)  As I discovered this last week, however, there is another way nobility is created, and as in tales of old, mine involve cunning, dedication and even a dragon.

Once upon a time a few years ago, the Big Guy and I opened our oil bill and, after finding out no one wanted to buy our used body parts, designed a house that didn’t need oil or propane.  We ended up building a cave — a house buried on three sides, powered mostly by sun and heated by our Kitchen Queen.

To the casual observer, Kitchen Queen may look like an ordinary cast-iron wood cookstove, but she is really a dragon.  Now, you may not know this because dragons get a bad rap in a lot of books and movies, but most of them — such as Kitchen Queen’s black-and-chrome variety — are actually quite friendly.  Kitchen Queen, for example, keeps a fire burning in her belly, usually using it to heat our water and bake goodies.

Once in a while, however, the gremlins that live in our utility room get restless, and the water in Kitchen Queen’s heating box fails to circulate.  She builds up steam, and then (she’s a very lady-like dragon) she’ll blow off the steam in a long low squeal (she swears it’s a burp).

Last weekend the gremlins got restless.

The sun was setting when a few bubbly burps escaped Kitchen Queen. We figured she would blow off a little steam and then the water would circulate again and all would be well, so we went back to cartoons. Kitchen Queen burped again and then fell to grumbling about something. Suddenly she roared and blasted the wall with steam from her backside.

The Big Guy rose from the recliner, trying to soothe Kitchen Queen for a moment before arming himself with a screwdriver and charging into the utility room. An accomplished DIY-er, the Big Guy fearlessly flipped switches and pushed buttons on the machinery that converts sun to electricity and the gadgets that pull water from the well to the house.

Back he went to Kitchen Queen to see what was causing her to alternately circulate water and then hold it to convert to steam, but his close inspection offended her sensibilities, and instead of a burp, this time she wet her pants.  All over the kitchen floor. Seriously. There was a two-inch-deep puddle from one end of the kitchen to the other.illustration

Ironically, the gremlins had rendered us not powerless but waterless. Thus began a series of labors so terrifying even Hercules would have thought twice (the Big Guy even had to get out the owner’s manuals).  The pump in our well was disabled, but the Big Guy soon realized the real test would be keeping toilets flushing and family mentally sound as we waited for the parts for the repair to arrive.

For the better part of a week, he hauled wood with 14-year-old Thing1 and water from a neighbor’s house with the aid of 8-year-old Thing2. (Still hobbling with a cane, I offered little but financial support). Without complaint and surviving on rations of oatmeal and microwaved dinners on paper plates, the Big Guy nurtured the family spirits while navigating the logistics of waterlessness and getting up for work at the usual time.

It was near nightfall when the part arrived a week later, and the Big Guy and the plumber pulled out the well pump for a repair that took less than a couple hours. The plumber left, and the Big Guy pushed buttons and flipped switches until the gremlins were thoroughly vanquished. We fed and watered Kitchen Queen and celebrated victory with scalding showers.

In honor of Big Guy’s pluck last week, I created (birthed, if you will) a new noble rank:  Unholy Order of the Eternal Missing Sock.  I immediately indulged in a bit of nepotism and conferred the knightly (that’s a word, right?) title of ‘Sir Big Dad’ on the Big Guy. Now as we happily take hot showers for granted again, I’m more sure than ever that there is courage — and even nobility — in laughing through the everyday battles that keep a family going when they’re ready to tear out their very dirty hair.

illustration

As a great philosopher once said, “You might think I’m a nut case, but I’m not the only one.”  And, if your family, like a good candy bar, has one or two nuts in it that have kept you going through a domestic disaster, you might be ready to join us.  Mismatched socks optional.

— Rachel Barlow

Blogger Rachel Barlow describes herself as “a midlife crisis waiting to happen, closet nomad and middle-aged work-at-home-mother of two.” Her life is “wrapped up in peanut butter sandwiches, fat (sometimes losing it), bills and blogging (her way) to sanity.”

Reflections of Erma