Hooooooly shit what a day. I don’t think I’ve had this eventful a start to the new year since I accidentally and tipsily got unintentionally vulgar with a youth pastor at a New Year’s Eve party before driving home at 2:30 a.m. in a literal blizzard.
This was much crazier.
New Year’s started as it does for most parents. Kyle and I finished our nightly gaming before heading out to the living room at 11:58 to watch the ball drop. The ball dropped, it was 2018, we kissed and started to head up to bed.
Which is when the fun began.
I just dragged myself straight up to bed, pausing only to check in on Sam and make sure he was sleeping comfortably. Midnight is an hour past when I usually crash, and I was already feeling it. Both Carrie and Isaac were awake enough to be questioning the situation (via kicks), and I was more than a little eager to get into bed. No sooner had I snuggled under the covers, curled around my maternity pillow (my blessed nest, I call it), than Kyle came upstairs very worried.
“I think something is wrong with the furnace,” he said.
We’ve had “I think something is wrong with [x]” conversations at bedtime before. Nine times out of ten, nothing is wrong and it’s just something completely normal. I expected this conversation to go the same way. “Why do you think that?” I asked.
“It’s making kind of a pulsing hissing noise? I heard it in the living room.”
Now, it was 12:30 a.m., and I knew that Sam would have no consideration for that fact when he woke up in… probably 6 hours, tops. That was the first thing on my mind when I said, “Well, if you’re really worried about it, we’ll check it out in the morning.”
But Kyle was convinced something was seriously wrong and first took the step of turning the thermostat down to 50 so that we could avoid overtaxing the furnace. I’d protest this any time but the balmiest of summer days, but last night, it was well below zero outside… -3 with a windchill of -18, which is probably colder than it was in Barrow, Alaska. I vehemently protested the furnace being turned down and Kyle compromised by turning it up to 60.
Only the furnace didn’t kick in. We didn’t hear the reassuring hum and roar of forced hot air, except for a few false starts. Kyle went downstairs to inspect again (it was now 1:30 a.m.) and found the furnace hissing, squeaking, and then falling silent with the lockout light on.
He called a 24-hour HVAC service, hoping to catch someone on New Year’s Eve, during a huge cold snap, at 2 a.m., but after about half an hour of holding, he gave up on that endeavor. We made a plan: at 7, he would get Sammy and bring him into our room so that Sammy could get dressed in approximately 32 layers of clothes. Then Kyle would dig out his car, pack us some bags, and send us off to my parents’ house (with the cat as well) to ride out the coldest of the incident. With any luck, the problem would be resolved sooner rather than later.
It was 2:30 a.m. at that point, and the two of us fell into an exhausted sleep that lasted until 5:30 a.m. for no good reason. It wasn’t that Sam woke us up or Tinkerbell woke us up, we just woke up at 5:30 and, knowing what the day held, couldn’t fall back asleep.
But we tried. Oh my god did we try.
Around 7, Kyle went to bring Sam into our room, where he could burrow under the covers and keep warm until it was time to leave. Sam thought it was all a wonderful game, especially because he got his Kindle straightaway and because he had Mommy and Daddy there to play Kindle with him. He showed off his favorite games and tried to get us to participate, but I’ll be honest–I was still in a twilight space of not even slightly awake, so it all sort of blurred together.
Kyle dug out his car, Sam got very excited about Tinkerbell being on the bed with him, and around 8 a.m., it was time to make tracks. I bundled up–five layers on top, two on bottom–and we packed up the car to head out to my parents’ house, leaving Kyle to wait for the HVAC guy and stopping for Dunkin Donuts on the way.
Stopping for Dunkin Donuts ended up changing the morning somewhat significantly. As we drove down our street towards the nearest Dunkin, I saw a woman crossing the road. At first, I felt a stab of annoyance that wasn’t even logical–we’re in the middle of nowhere and don’t really have sidewalks at all, much less crosswalks. So of course she’d be in the middle of the road, and I don’t know why I was irritated.
Anyway, she flagged me down, and once I slowed and stopped, I could see that she was really distressed–tears running down her cheeks, all bedraggled and out of sorts. At the same moment, I remembered that, oh yeah, it’s three whole degrees outside. There’s no reason for someone to be out in that kind of weather unless they’re either really dedicated to their fitness routine or in really dire straits.
She was the latter. I didn’t really piece together the whole of her situation, but I gathered enough–that her sister had kicked her out, that she needed to get back to her apartment in the next town over (coincidentally, right on the route that Sam and I were taking to my parents’ house), that she didn’t know what to do.
So I told her to get in the car.
She was effusively grateful and offered to pay me something, but dude, I’m not even going out of my way here. It’s alright. Just hold the donuts for me and don’t turn out to be a serial killer and you’re good.
And, well. Like I said, her apartment was on the way. We chatted the whole way there, friendly conversation about nothing, and she got upstairs alright. And then Sam and I (and Tinkerbell, who she thought was actually a baby?) continued on to my parents’ house.
I’ll be 100% honest–my recollection of the morning at my parents’ house is pretty fuzzy because my exhaustion had started to hit by that point. My mom had to work, but my dad was home for the holiday, and he and Sam play off each other really well, so I knew Sam would be in good hands despite my zombie-like state. I mostly remember the series of games they played: dragon vs. castle (with the old play castle my brother and sister and I had when we were kids), Wall-E and Silly Songs, Sorry, and finally, drums and piano.
That last bit involved the new drum machine my dad got for Christmas, which had Sam all excited because it made noises, and my dad plugged it into the living room sound system, so it made loud noises. Nothing in the world is better to a three-year-old than loud noises, except perhaps loud noises sanctioned by and shared with his grandfather. The two of them had a marvellous time.
As for me? I… tried to sleep. I tried really hard, but comfort is just not something my body is capable of lately except under very specific circumstances. I laid down on Sam’s bed (which used to be mine, until I moved out of the house wayyyy back in 2009) and tried to sleep, but my weirdly shifted center of gravity didn’t really lend itself to a comfortable rest in my childhood bed, so that was a wash. At some point, right when I was getting to a stage where I could ignore my discomfort long enough to pass out, Sam burst into the room crying and tattling on my dad, something about donuts? I have no idea.
The HVAC guy got to our house around noonish, give or take, and found that the furnace had just shut down because–get this–it’s so cold outside that the oil line literally froze. I guess this can happen sometimes when you have an outdoor oil tank (which we have because our house is kind of low on storage for literally anything) and it’s cold as balls out, which it has been (but hey! Next week, it’s going to get into the 40s, so break out your bathing suits, citizens of Massachusetts!). The problem was fixed within 5 minutes and for less than $200, both of which had us sighing in utter relief–when things go wrong in our house, those things tend to be massive fixes that cost at least $500.
And, well. Money has been tight since I left my job, which we knew it would be. We had enough squirreled away that we could afford to pay for some minor repairs, but furnace repairs have a pretty wide range of costs, and we didn’t know what range we’d end up on. That the costs were on the low end of things basically took an awful situation and made it infinitely more palatable.
When Kyle told me all of this, he also said that he’d keep an eye on the interior temperature and let us know when it was back to being livable (that morning, when we’d all gotten up, the temperature inside had dropped to 40 degrees, which was admittedly significantly more than the -3 degrees outside but was still not even slightly livable), and I told him that I was coming home by 3 regardless. This was at least partly because of the one piece of chaos that we were expecting: the arrival of our new dryer.
Let’s rewind a bit to when we bought this house, three years ago. The former owners kindly left the washer and dryer behind for us, which was fantastic–before moving in, we’d had to either use our apartment complex’s machines down three flights of stairs and costing about $6/load or make a weekly jaunt to my parents’ house to hang out while doing 1-2 loads of laundry (we learned to be frugal with our laundry in those days). Any washer and dryer were an improvement over that situation (much though I love spending time with my folks, it’s better to be able to do laundry in your own place, especially when you have a baby).
And the washer, at least, is great. It’s not brand new, but it’s lovely and functional and has all the different settings and is basically a Washing Machine For Grown-Ups. Having it handy to take care of various messes–cat-induced, baby-induced, otherwise-induced–has been a joy.
The dryer… eeeeeh.
It was quirky from the start. It only ever worked on the medium setting, meaning that we basically had to throw everything in and pray for the best. What was more, it didn’t turn off on its own after any period of time–if you forgot about it, forgot to set a timer or what-have-you, it would just keep running and running and running, wasting so much energy and threatening to burn down the house and shrink your clothes in the same breath. The lint trap was also a hilarious mistake: it caught lint in the filter, alright, but the lint also often got stuck in the trap holder, which made the entire thing pointless.
I probably could’ve lived with it for a while, but my parents weren’t fans of that strategy and bought us a new dryer for Christmas. And it was scheduled to arrive January 1.
January 1: the day of the broken heater, the wandering stranger, the playing at my parents’ house, and no sleep.
As Sam and I were preparing to pack up and leave, Kyle called again to let me know that the dryer would be delivered in the next 20 minutes, which was wonderful timing, as it takes about 20 minutes to get home from my parents’ house. I rushed out the door a little bit, letting Sam get away with abducting a Santa hat he found, ignoring the loud protests of the cat as we slipped her into her carrier once again, and trying to drive safely despite the fact that I was seeing double by that point.
We got home to see a truck parked outside the house and a man running from the front door back to said truck. And the truck drove away, and Kyle poked his head out the door and told me to go into our laundry room.
And, well. My new dryer is beautiful.
(it makes pretty little music noises when you turn it on and off)
And that’s how my year started! Dinner and evening activities passed in an absolute blur, and both Kyle and I were asleep almost as soon as our heads hit our pillows, only to find when we woke at around 7 a.m. that the furnace had died again sometime during the night. This time, though, it came back to life after a bit of swearing at and cajoling by Kyle… and after protesting with concerning squeaks and clanks that had us calling the HVAC company back again (they still haven’t arrived–it’s almost 9:30 p.m., and our window for service was approximately from 7:30 a.m. until midnight, so yay).
I think I need another holiday.