“I still love you!” I yell out of the window of my silver mini SUV. My four year old daughter turns and looks at me with the brightest smile I have seen all morning. With a hop in her step she takes her teacher’s hand and enters the door of her preschool.
It was a bad morning.
We went through whining, refusing to get dressed, more whining, crying and telling me she was standing up when she was not–the first time I have heard her knowingly lie. I drew a firm line and stuck to it until I realized that unless I increased the rate of movement there was no possible way to get her to school and get to my workout class. I could not live without my workout class. I lost it and started yelling.
It was a bad week.
Have you ever had shit in your living room? Not the proverbial kind that “happens,” but the kind that erupts from underground pipes covering your bathroom, pantry and sky blue wool living room rug with scented clumps in varying shades of coffee, tan and russet floating in a delicious chartreuse sauce of God knows what.
I stood there staring in horror and I cried. I called the plumber. I called the only three people I could think of to call who would actually come. One was out of town. The other two did not answer. I texted my husband who cancelled his back-to-back client meetings to come home early and help.
“Mommy, why are you crying?”
“I’m crying because there is poo-poo and pee-pee all over the floor.”
“Yes, it is.”
By the time my man arrived home I had managed to push to one side all the clean furniture in the living room and rescue the drown furniture as well. But the
bathroom and the pantry directly across the hall were still an inch deep. With a glance and a whiff he started to gag. I could feel my resolve melting away. The only way to get the shit cleaned up before it soaked into the walls and the floors of my beloved “money pit” was to maintain my suppression of reality for a few hours.
“Listen to me. We have to get this cleaned up. If we talk about what we’re actually doing or acknowledge how gross this is, I won’t be able to continue. You cannot gag in front of me. You cannot throw up in front of me. If you need to do that, look away or go into the other room.”
God bless him, he did. He looked away or stepped into the other room many times that night.
It took my denial, his momentary breaks, a box of garbage bags, every rag in the garage, five rolls of paper towels and a plastic dustpan to lift the layers of shit sauce from our living quarters.
Over the next few days, waves of Clorox and ammonia were liberally applied at safe intervals. An industrial strength fan ran continuously until the sound drove us mad. Then we ran it only at night. We found a plumbing company who could diagnose our recurring plumbing challenges and repair the cause as well as properly install an outside cleanout, preventing a future overflow indoors. It was costly, but we bought the ability to sleep at night knowing we would never have shit in our living room again. But two days later I still felt numb.
That didn’t really happen, did it?
Maybe if I don’t tell anyone then it didn’t really happen.
If I tell my Bible study girls it happened they will be scared to come to our house again. Maybe they won’t like me anymore.
It would be easier if it didn’t happen.
Our potty pipes gave me PTSD. My brain was trying to convince me to sustain my suppression. To fight back I forced myself to tell people. I started with my closest friends. Their horror and humor about the situation gave me the courage to tell others. Yes, it was the grossest thing I have seen in my life. Yes, I did really tell him he could not gag in front of me.
I have used the upheaval as an opportunity to rearrange the living room and do some spring cleaning. My sister schooled me in the wonders of activated charcoal for removing unwanted scent. And my lovely Bible studies ladies did come back. They said such nice things about how they could not even tell it happened.
After preschool, and thankfully, an hour of weightlifting, I took my girl to frozen yogurt. I apologized for yelling at her, told her I was sorry I was so stressed out about the bathroom mess and we stayed there writing on the chalkboard together until she decided she was ready to go home. I showed her the old pipes in the trash so she would feel that it was again safe to use the potty at home.
I still feel a mixture of emotions when I think of it, or rather try not to. But here I am telling the world, “I had shit in my living room.” That’s the first step, right?