Waterlogged Wedding Night

January 8th, 2018

The events leading up to our wedding, the ceremony, and even the reception went as well as can be expected. We were married on November 21, 1981, at 2PM. Afterwards, we had a small reception with only a few of our closest friends and family. We aren't much for big parties anyway. The festivities were over with plenty of time to make the drive to our rental house before it got too late in the evening. .

In late November the weather was getting cool enough for winter coats. We pulled into the driveway just after the evening sun had set. We had only been gone a couple days for the wedding, and preparations leading up to it. Neither of us thought about how cold it had become. It wasn't icy or anything, but we didn't know how well the house was insulated. Actually, how well it wasn't insulated.

We debated whether we should do the traditional thing of carrying the bride over the threshold. Robin had already been living in the place for a month, but this would be our first time in the house together. Sure, why not?

Let me play out the events that unfolded in slow motion.

We stood on the porch, and I unlocked the door, and opened it. I lifted my bride into my arms. Being careful not to bump a head on the door post, or drop her, I stepped through the door, trying to decide whether to show off, and carry her all the way to the bed room, or just stand her on her feet in the living room, my decision was made for me pretty quickly.

"Put me down! Put me down!" she cried out.

My first thought was that Robin figured she was too heavy for me to carry around very far. As her feet hit the ground running, heading straight for what I thought was the bed room, happy thoughts sprang to mind as I reached behind me to close the front door.

Then I realized it wasn't our bedroom that was her goal. Robin ran past it, and to the back door.

"Don't you hear that?" she called over her shoulder, reaching the door in the kitchen that led down stairs to a landing. From there you could exit to the back yard, or turn to continue to the basement.

I didn't hear anything out of the ordinary. Not until I took a few steps. It was the sound of rushing water. By the time I got to the back door, Robin had already shouted the news. A pipe had frozen and burst.

How bad could it be? How long had the pipe been pouring water into the basement?

Fortunately we had both been in the house enough, we knew exactly where the shut off valve was located. It was just at the bottom of the steps, in the overhead joists. Even on the bottom step, not standing on the basement floor, the water was 3 feet deep.

I got the water turned off, and it was time to assess the damage. Neither of us had enough household goods to store in the basement. The biggest thing that concerned Robin was the deep freeze. In the darkened basement, I could see it floating on our indoor lake.

With the flood, the pilot lights to the furnace, and hot water heaters were out. How were we going to get this pumped out? If it weren't for the need for heat, we could consider just letting it drain slowly through floor drains, if there were any, or if it would drain at all.

Fortunately, our neighbor was our landlady's son. He had an industrial strength sump pump, and told us that he'd get the water pumped out for us, and to go out to eat somewhere. By the time we got back, he would have it all done. Being early enough, we went to a local steak house for our first dinner together. With the thought of a basement full of water, it wasn't particularly romantic. We just talked, wondering how to deal with the watery mess at home.

Things didn't go entirely well once we got home. The water was gone, but the furnace and water heater were too water logged to get working. Fortunately we did think to pack some of our wedding gifts in the car. An electric blanket, and a crock pot being the most handy.

Once the damage was repaired as much as possible, we spent the next couple weeks keeping warm together under that electric blanket, with quilts piled high on top. You aren't supposed to do that, but we were careful to keep an eye on the settings.

The crock pot came in handy as a miniature hot water heater. It was kept in the bathroom, on the countertop, to use for washing up at the sink. For the kitchen, water could be more easily heated on the stove to use for washing dishes.

Within the month, probably about a week or so later, the heat was restored. We only lived there for the following month, maybe to the end of January, but due to other changes in jobs and schooling, it wasn't going to be somewhere to stay for long.

With all the water that was piped in for the flood, we worked out an arrangement with the water company, and the landlady to whittle the expense down, and get it paid off before we moved.

Through the years, especially if we've just moved to a place, when our anniversary rolls around, we joke that we ought to knock a hole in a water pipe, so we can snuggle under the covers, without heat or hot water. Just for a little while, but certainly not to fill the basement, or actually put out any pilot lights.

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