My mom comes to our house every Tuesday to spend time with us. Tuesdays, as I’ve mentioned, are bad for me. It marks another week since the worst day of our lives, another week we are going on without Madeline. Mike is always busy on Tuesday nights, so my mom and I make ourselves busy. We do our best not to look at the clock between four and seven pm, and we usually accomplish this by running errands, going to dinner, taking a walk, etc. Today we planned on doing some paperwork for Friends of Maddie, then going by my PO Box.
I was running behind. We’d planned to leave by six, but at 6:30 I was still attempting to return unread emails (I’m at the end of April. Yeah.). Realizing the time, my mom and I grabbed our stuff…and then we were practically knocked to the ground by the sound of two INTENSE fire alarms. We live in a condo complex and for some reason, there are two different alarms: A screeching off and on beep, and a non-stop high-pitched whine. Rigby LOST IT. She started whimpering in a way I’ve never heard.
The first thing I thought was, of course, “crap, there’s a fire.” So I ran through our place and was relieved to see everything was fine. My mom and I then ran outside, partly because that’s what you’re supposed to do when a fire alarm goes off, but mostly because I thought Rigby’s ears might start bleeding.
In front of our building there was chaos – four fire trucks, jillions of fire fighters, and a bunch of irritated neighbors.
One of those neighbors said, “there isn’t a fire, but one of the unit’s sprinkler system went off.” I just knew it was going to be one of the two units above me. And sure enough, it was the unit two floors up. PANIC MODE!
My mom and I ran around the back of the building and went through the fire exit to get inside. We could already hear the water rushing through the walls. We burst into my unit and breathed a sigh of relief. No water. “Thank goodness…” I started to say. And then I was hit on the head by a stream of water. AAAAGH!
The water started pouring through the air conditioning vents in our front entry way. My mom started pushing furniture and other things out of the way of the water while I ran into the kitchen to get some bowls. Except, all my bowls are strewn about the house as insurance against sneak-attack morning sickness. So I did what any normal person who doesn’t ever cook would do – I grabbed my pans. You know, the nice ones that you get as wedding gifts. It was time to put them to good use! My mom did not approve, and ordered me to collect the plastic bowls.
Those five bowls had to be emptied every few minutes. There were a few other clusters of bowls throughout our front entry. I’m making it sound like we have this fancy place, but our front entry is also the kitchen/living room/dining room. It’s just a big room. A big wet room.
I called Mike and said something like, “WATER! FLOOD! HOME! COME NOW!” and then I went to go talk to the fire captain to tell him there was a waterfall in my house. He assured me they’d be down to check out the damage. After telling him I had ice cream (BRIBE), I went back to my place to take pictures of the damage. A group of fire fighters came a few minutes later (with shovels…not sure what they were for), and when they saw the elaborate towel & bowl system we’d devised, one of them said, “Hey, you guys are awesome!” and I said, “I know!” and then I became aware I was only wear a pair of cut off sweat pants and a tank top with an inadequate shelf bra, and I oooooh soooo subtly crossed my arms super breezy-like. And then it was awkward because I was not at all breezy, and the men and the shovels quickly left to help the units above us.
So what happened? The woman two units above us apparently didn’t get the memo that hanging things from fire sprinklers is not smart. A crystal or some such decorative item broke her sprinkler and triggered the fire alarm. I don’t even want to think about the damage in her unit and the unit in between us. I also don’t want to think about the damage we’d have had if I hadn’t been running late. Since we were home, the damage is all behind the walls and in the ceilings. OH and our heating and air conditioning unit is most likely toast. The one we had replaced when I was pregnant with Madeline two years ago. This is why we have home owners insurance. We’ll be calling for estimates on the damage tomorrow. Wheeeeee.
The whole thing did make me realize that I have a lot of things in this house that I would be really, really upset about losing. Maddie’s things. While I have been loathe to move or pack any of it, it would be impossible for me to grab the meaningful items if our house were really on fire or flooding. It’s making me think about what we have to do to preserve her reminders and the things that are most important to us. Obviously her urn would be the first item I took, but what about her favorite dolls, the ones I sleep with every night? Or the last bits of clothing that smell like her, ziplocked in a bag in her room? My need to preserve everything might have prevented my ability to preserve ANYTHING.
That is a thought that, sixteen weeks after the day our lives changed forever, is too much for me to think about.