It is no surprise to regular readers that I am terrified of solo home ownership. I grew up in an illegal basement apartment, then in other rentals. I had never lived in anything much bigger than a one-bedroom apartment until I moved into what seemed to me an impossibly massive house at the age of nearly thirty… the one I still own today.
I was always intimidated by it and its mysteries – valves and secret stashes of things in the garage, the inexplicable connection between pipes, the failure of one bringing on trouble in another. I didn’t understand the difference between water heaters and furnaces and gas and electric. What was powered by what? Was the washing machine gas or electric? The stove? The water? I had a hard time handling its logistics, its changes of filters and tightening of screws. Throw a couple of toddlers into the equation, and color me thoroughly overwhelmed.
Good thing there was a husband to handle all that!
Err… and then there wasn’t. The year after he left, a hurricane dumped a half a foot of water in the basement, and I sat on the top step and cried, half expecting the whole house to wash down my hill with my then-nine and eight year olds in it. I was terrified all the time, sure there were things I was supposed to do but wasn’t doing, things that would end in fires and malfunctions. When things broke, I had no idea whom to call. You can take a girl out of the illegal basement apartment, but you can’t take the illegal basement apartment out of the girl.
But I learned. I figured out where the water main valve was. I cobbled together a list of phone numbers for an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter. I learned to ask questions. I slowly fought off the existential panic, and figured I was doing okay.
Then last night I went downstairs to do some laundry, and found evidence of Rodents of Unusual Size invading my basement, and nearly dropped dead on the spot.
To the left of my washer and dryer there is a bit of exposed wood. Due to said hurricane flood, and a couple of other water events (including a frozen pipe), the wood is crumbly, and old. It doesn’t bear any load, so I keep meaning to have someone come in and cover it up. But last night I saw clear evidence of something burrowing in it, and I was sure my house was about to have a hole the size of Kansas in it, and an invasion of moles and skunks and possums was afoot. My heart started thumping, and I could hardly breathe.
Exactly whom does one call to stave off a possum invasion?
Just then my black cat, Boo, decided to show up on the scene. I was sure she was too small and fragile to take on the killer, fanged beast that was just at that moment gathering up its thuggish friends, so I tried to shoo her away from the spot. But it proved too intriguing to her, and she went in anyway… and started digging.
It was then I realized, as a detective might figure out that a “robbery” was an inside job because the glass of a window was broken outwards from the inside, that the debris of the digging was being pushed in, by an existing resident.
No one was trying to get in. Someone was trying to get out. Of my furry cohabitants, none has been as fascinated by the outside world as Boo is. She can sit in front of a window for hours, and loves, especially, the windows in the basement, since they’re on level with the ground and give her the best virtual reality experience of life outside.
I’ve cleaned up and closed off the spot. I’m trying to be more careful about letting her down there. And, most of all, I’ve tried to remind myself I can take on anything: Rodents of Unusual Size, renegade cats, and whatever else house living throws my way.