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Johnson's Journal: Burst pipes and aching backs: An initiation into homeownership

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opinion Perham, 56573
Perham Focus
(218) 346-5901 customer support
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

“Honey, where are the forks?”

“Seriously? Fork-get about it. They’re packed away somewhere, probably at the bottom of the biggest, heaviest box at the bottom of the tallest, heaviest pile of boxes.”

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“C’mon. Really? How am I supposed to eat my week-old leftovers off this paper plate?”

“Yeah, good luck with that. Maybe you can whittle one out of a stick in the yard?”

“I could... but then I’d have to find a knife.”

Ah, the joys of moving. The heavy lifting. The never-ending stacks of boxes. The disorganization. The days and even weeks of not knowing where anything is; having to get creative just to get by.

My husband and I went through the grueling process two weeks ago. We’re still going through it, really, with dozens of boxes left to unpack and about a thousand little projects on our snowballing ‘to-do’ list.

It was a tough move. We had multiple large loads of stuff to haul, in 80-plus degree weather and up and down a lot of stairs. And then up and down a bunch more stairs.

Did I mention the stairs?

Our parents helped us, thank goodness, but nevertheless, my aching back still screams at me as I try to get out of bed every morning: “Why, why, why in God‘s name did you DO this to me?!”

I blame the stairs.

It was a big move, too. Not just in the physical sense, but emotionally. Proud new homeowners, we were moving into our first home together. We felt so fortunate to find a little patch of heaven to call our own, and we were excited to begin this new adventure in our lives.

It took no time at all for that adventure to begin – and it wasn’t all good.

We learned about the challenges of homeownership early on. VERY early on; our first day in the new house, in fact.

Looking back on it now, the wiser and smugger me laughs mockingly at the naive and carefree ‘old’ me of two weeks ago. That me had no idea that, within 24 hours of moving in, I’d be listening to the terrifying sound of my husband sawing a large hole in one of our lovely walls.

Back and forth, back and forth, the steel teeth of the blade slowly and unapologetically cut into all our best-laid plans, hopes and dreams as it cut through the back wall of a closet.

It was the only way to reach that burst pipe.

Yes, it was our first day in our new home, and we were already facing one of those ‘every homeowner’s worst nightmare’ scenarios – a burst pipe. It burst right in my husband’s face, spewing water all over him as he tried to tighten a screw to stop what had been just a tiny leak behind the toilet.

And that was our first lesson in the conventional wisdom of ‘a small problem always leads to a bigger one.’

The pipe burst behind the wall, causing my dad to run (well, his top speed is more of a medium-paced shuffle) downstairs to shut off the main water valve. My mom and I followed after him to towel up dripping water as it seeped through to the lower level. Our task was made more difficult by our utter lack of towels, most of which were still packed away in God knows where – probably at the bottom of the biggest, heaviest box at the bottom of the tallest, heaviest pile of boxes.

So, there we were. Soaking wet, in a panic, sopping up puddles in the house with whatever material we could get our hands on, praying that it didn‘t cause any permanent damage – and that it didn’t signal a huge problem with the plumbing.

It was not exactly how we envisioned spending our first day in our beloved new home.

After two straight days of endless moving and cleaning in the 80-plus degree heat, we were suddenly without water. We couldn’t shower, and we had to go to the store to buy bottled water to drink. Instead of unpacking and reveling in our little patch of heaven, we worked on plugging the burst pipe until a plumber could come out. We made at least three trips to Menards for emergency repair supplies.

On the up side, my husband and I learned a lot about plumbing, in a short amount of time. Granted, it was a lesson we could have lived without for awhile, or forever. Or at least until we got the towels unpacked.

But luckily, good fortune was on our side. The pipe burst while my dad – who has some plumbing experience, unlike us – was still around to help. And the problem turned out to be a minor, relatively easy fix. It caused no permanent damage. Within a day, we had the water back on. And we haven’t run into any other issues since then.

But what a heck of a first day that was. Looking back on it now, we have a good laugh. That burst pipe may have made our move-in experience all wet, but it didn’t dampen our spirits in the long-run. We plan to frame that burst pipe in a shadowbox and hang it up somewhere in the house.

Which we love. We love the house. Absolutely love it. That’s important to note. Once that crazy first day was behind us, we spent some time doing what we really wanted to do from the get-go – revel in our little patch of heaven.

We’ve also gotten some boxes unpacked, which makes life easier and helps us find things. Like forks.

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Marie Johnson
Marie Johnson (formerly Nitke) came to the Perham Focus after several years as the Education and Arts & Entertainment Editor at the Herald-Review of Grand Rapids, Minn. She lives in rural Ottertail with her husband, Dan, and their spunky yellow lab, Louisa.
(218) 346-5900 x228
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