The calendar has moved beyond all things spooky towards the season to express gratitude. However, I feel I can’t do that fully without first talking a little more about something scary. A haunted house of sorts. No, this has nothing to do with the terrifying creatures in Washington DC, this is not another political post.
The house I’m referring to is not so much a house as a yellow trailer covered in tin sheets the same thickness as aluminum foil. A place that was literally falling apart under the feet of all those who dared enter. Someplace so horrific that hot water refused to make its presence known. Are you stumped? Cue dramatic music…..it’s where I USED TO LIVE!
I moved the boys and myself into the above-mentioned hell hole because I could afford it, it was a nicer part of town than the hell hole where I lived before, and it had a big yard for the dog. I am a woman who has made some stupid decisions, and lots of mistakes. I am nothing if not fully aware of how imperfect I am. Choosing to “make do” in the little yellow trailer was not in my top 5 of dumbest decisions I have ever made. That should tell you how many mistakes I have chalked up in my 40 something years. It was solidly in the top 10 however.
The place itself wasn’t HORRIBLE at first. The landlord said we could paint! How nice! I’ll just throw away all the weird stuff left behind by the last tenants. I don’t think I need any more Halloween decorations, especially not jack o”lanterns that are supposed to plug-in and light up and have cords that look like they have been chewed by…um…something…and are covered in electrical tape. I also don’t need any more Easter decorations featuring creepy bunnies wearing sundresses and straw hats. That in itself is not bad, who doesn’t love a rodent in clothes, but the dresses were covered in some kind of red and presumably sticky substance. I’m going to say raspberry jelly just in case any of you are eating while reading this.
So, I painted the living room dark green and made curtains with greens and blues in the fabric. It was adorable! I couldn’t open the windows because the ones that were not painted shut didn’t have screens and this is Florida, open an un-screened window for 2 seconds and risk catching malaria (and whatever else mosquitoes carry).
The boys picked out a nice bright blue paint for their room. This would be fine. This would be just fine. Until things started breaking and it became very apparent that my landlord insisted on making the repairs himself, and that meant a full day with him in my place, tinkering away with parts that he had more than likely pilfered from junk yards, and the repairs would not stick. The only time that something that he fixed stayed fixed was when he replaced my air conditioner when it went out. In July. In Florida. And he didn’t return my call about it being out for 2 1/2 weeks.
I learned tricks to keep things working that were almost broken. My refrigerator teetered at death’s door for months and months, but I learned that if I adjusted the temperature every now and then, that would breathe some life into it. I changed the door knob myself when it became so loose that my door could be opened whether it was locked or not.
When my hot water heater stopped working I could not fake or fix it myself. It was still summer, so I was okay with taking cold showers, but the boys weren’t as easy-going about it, so I broke down and called the landlord. After a couple of weeks, he arrived with duct tape and screwdriver in hand. I don’t really know much about water heaters, but to me, this seemed like he was woefully unprepared to actually fix the problem. I was correct in my assessment of the situation. It broke again a few weeks later. I called him again and told him that I had no hot water once more. Here’s where it got really ugly. It broke the second time at the end of the month. I told him I would not pay rent until it was fixed. He would not fix it until I paid rent. We had reached an impasse. One that meant I would be living without hot water for the next two months.
At this point, I had heard from a lawyer friend that what the landlord was doing was illegal. I did some research on this thing called “the internet” (thank you Al Gore) which is really so much more than cats and porn and blogs (not that I don’t love blogs…and cats…and porn) and discovered that my friend was right, the slumlord was wrong, and I sent him a letter using the words “pursuant” and “statute” and I told him that he was wrong and that he must be used to dealing with people who were afraid of him and/or stupid and that I am neither of those things. He showed up, sprayed some tire sealant all over the hot water heater (no joke. Tire. Sealant) and called it a day. My water still wasn’t hot, but it was very chemically tasting and smelling, so it was a good trade-off.
Here’s where the gratitude part comes in. I was able to tell my landlord that very next day that we would be moving out within the week. I could do this because my brother and sister-in-law offered me and the boys the chance to move into their HUUUUGE house in a beautiful neighborhood in town, for rent that I can afford, because my brother had moved to Texas and my sister-in-law was ready to join him. As of a few weeks ago, the boys each have their own room, we have two bathrooms, I have an indoor laundry room, a dishwasher, closet space, a yard for the dog, and so much more. To say I am thankful seems like an understatement, but I am so very thankful for their generosity. I am extremely fortunate to have a generous and supportive family who COULD very well let me flounder in my own stupid mistakes, but they don’t. They help and comfort and support me and have never made me feel like a loser who makes bad decisions.
In the midst of hot water heater-gate, part 2, I had a little breakdown after a very unladylike screaming match in the yard with my FORMER landlord who dropped by to ask for money one night. I had sent the boys inside so that they wouldn’t be scarred for life at hearing their mother cursing at an old man, but they snuck out onto the porch and heard me doing just that. After he left I was crying and saying that I was so sorry for making the boys live someplace so awful and that I was trying to get us out as soon as I could. It was a great moment in parenting for sure. My eldest, who at 12 is smarter and more sensitive than a lot of adults I know, said “oh yes mom. Be sorry for putting a roof over our heads and working to feed us and give us things we need. Suck it up”.
I am so grateful that the boys appreciate that I AM trying. We appreciate our family so much, and we can all agree that we will NEVER take hot water, or each other, for granted. This Thanksgiving, or EVER.