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Lost in Suburbia classic column: One small hitch in the plan

Tracy Beckerman
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Redwood Falls Gazette

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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For 12 years we scheduled our entire social life around the availability of the local teenage babysitters. But finally the day arrived when our son was old enough to be responsible for his younger sister for a few hours. We were overjoyed. He was less than thrilled. So, we bribed him with an exorbitant amount of money to take care of her. We bribed her with an exorbitant amount of candy to listen to him.

To give us all some more confidence, we had him take a Red Cross babysitting course. He learned infant CPR (although his sister is 10), what to do if someone ingests poison (although we have no poison in the house), how to change a diaper (did we mention his sister is 10?) and how to call 911 (OK, this made sense, but he’s known how to do this since he was 3). Confident in his first aid skills, we then did emergency run-throughs in the house and mock fire drills. We bought fire escape ladders and first-aid kits, a power generator, and a year’s supply of batteries for a dozen flashlights. Even though we were only going to dinner in the next town for two hours, my son was prepared to handle a disaster of epic proportions.

What he wasn’t prepared to handle, apparently, was an overflowing toilet.

As we pulled the car out of the driveway to begin our date night, the kids came flying out the garage door, arms waving frantically.

“Stop! Come back! Come back!”

We hesitated for a moment. “So close,” I said.

“What is it?” my husband yelled from the car window. We still weren’t ready to admit defeat.

“The toilet is overflowing all over the place!” the kids yelled back.

Still optimistic, we left the car running and went inside.

Calmly we approached the downstairs bathroom and noted that the toilet wasn’t really overflowing. It was exploding in a continuous tidal wave all over the bathroom floor, out the door and into the hall … through the floor and down into the basement below.

“Aaaahhhhh!” I yelled. “Go grab the stuff out of the laundry room!”

“Get some towels,” bellowed my husband.

“Save the clean laundry!” I howled.

“Find me a plunger!” ordered the captain of the Titanic.

“Woof, woof,” barked the dog. In the pandemonium we forgot about the dog, who decided to join in the fray, run through the water and then into the family room (which was miraculously still dry) and then track it all over the carpet.

“Aaaaahhh!” I yelled again. “Put the dog out!”

“Get some more towels!” bellowed my husband again.

The kids ran back and forth with towels and plungers while my husband stopped the deluge and I tried to dry up the mess.

When the flood was over, my husband and I were soaked, the rescued stuff from the basement was all over the house, and there were three dozen sopping wet towels that needed to be washed.

Pathetically still determined to salvage our evening out, I threw six towels into the washing machine, pushed the start button and waited.

Nothing happened.

“Uh-oh,” I whispered.

“What?” asked my sodden husband.

“The washing machine has not been working well. I think it finally just died.”

“Of course it did,” he said. “Let’s go.”

“Go? We can’t go! The house is a mess. WE are a mess. What if there’s another emergency?”

“It’s okay, Mom, I have everything covered.” said my son with all the confidence of a Red Cross graduate. “If we have to go to the bathroom, we just won’t flush.”

This is a repeated Lost in Suburbia column, which has appeared in GateHouse Media newspapers since 2008. As Tracy Beckerman’s main column is shifting focus - her kids are grown and she has moved back to the city - we are rerunning her earlier work for readers who may have missed these the first time around. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tracybeckerman.