Monday, January 20, 2014

A Tale of Two Plumbers

One year, while I was in high school, my mom and I went shopping after school and found ourselves wandering around the jewelry department of a {rather} high end department store.  We hardly ever shopped there because the clothing was very expensive and, well, there were three of us girls.

But that particular day, Mom and I were in that store, window shopping and just looking around and I spotted a display of small red boxes criss-crossed with gold lines. Inside the padded and hinged boxes were the prettiest necklaces I had ever seen.

Gold necklaces. I had never owned anything gold.

The pendant was one letter - an initial - and it was written in the girliest, swirliest script with a teeny, tiny diamond set into it.

A diamond. A real diamond. I didn't know anything about carat weight or clarity or anything else. All I knew was that this was a genuine diamond.

I stood and stared at those necklaces for the longest time. Mom kept wandering away, off to women's clothing or shoes or wherever, but I stayed at that display, checking boxes to see if they had my initial and my sister's initial. When my mom came back to get me, I begged and begged her to get us these necklaces. I told her all my friends were getting special pieces of jewelry from their parents for their sweet sixteen.

She balked at first. But then I started working on her, reminding her Valentine's Day was coming up and wouldn't it be grand if she got us these necklaces instead of a box of chocolates. She always bought us a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day. And it would be a great reward for having brought home a pair of very good report cards. I pulled out every reason I could, hoping to persuade her




Please, mom?

I don't know which argument worked but she eventually agreed to buy the necklaces for us.

I loved that necklace. I wore it every day. I don't think my mom knew how much it meant to me. It was proof. Proof that I was loved enough for her to buy me something so valuable.

Silly, I know. But crazy thoughts swirl around your mind when you are a teenager.
So when K turned sixteen, I spoke to the Man and told him I had a plan. I wanted to buy K a pair of pearl earrings for her birthday. Pearls that she can wear on her wedding day.

When we gave them to her, I think she was surprised. She opened the box and smiled such a sweet little smile. It wasn't the first nice piece of jewelry that she had gotten, but it was her first piece of "grown-up" jewelry. Just like I did with that necklace such a long time ago, she wears the earrings often, in one of the bazillion holes she has in her ears. 

One night last week she decided to clean the pearls when she removed them. I only know this because the story starts with her pounding down the stairs, exploding into the living room. "Mom, I dropped a pearl earring when I was cleaning it and it went down the drain!" she cried.

"What??" I looked up from my iPhone.


"Oh, for Pete's sake, go get your father and see if he can find the trap and open it up." I got up and started toward the stairs.

But the Man was in bed. And he was not inclined to get up, go down on his knees, and examine plumbing at o'dark thirty at night. He told her to get her brother to help. So up the stairs she runs, yelling for J to come and help her. After much hooting and hollering, he agrees to look at the pipe under the sink and heads into the bathroom. We watch him from the doorway.

He makes one half hearted swipe at the pipe and declares that nope, he isn't about to take the plumbing apart.

K and I look at each other. Now what?

Gulp. We're going to have to do it ourselves.

"Well, let's look at this K, and see if we can figure it out," I say, rather naively. So the two us get on our knees and stick our heads into the cabinet under the sink. I try turning the fittings on the pipes. Not happening. K tries turning the fittings on the pipes. Nothing.

I look at K. "Go back downstairs to Dad and tell him Mom wants to know where to find a hammer, and a wrench, and a drill. She's not sure what she's going to run into taking the plumbing apart," I say, knowing what's coming next.

As expected, that just about sent the Man into orbit. I hear a shout, and pounding feet coming up stairs, and the Man bursts into the bathroom saying, "You don't use a hammer on plumbing! Do NOT take the pipes apart! I'll do it tomorrow!"

We try explaining to him that we simply can not wait until tomorrow. What if someone turns the water on and the earring gets washed further away? He tries to convince us it won't happen but we know better. He finally relents and tells us which tool to use to loosen the fittings, where he keeps it, and heads back to bed.

K and I trudge outside to the barn. With dismay, we look at his workbench and realize we have no idea what we're looking for. We grab everything we can. Anything that looks like it could move a plumbing fitting got scooped up and whisked into the house.

Back under the sink, I try to loosen the fittings. I can't do it. I look at K and tell her she has to do it. She gets under the sink and I remember something. "Go get a bowl! We don't know what's coming out of that pipe!" She runs downstairs and gets a small bowl. I seriously doubt the bowl is big enough but after all the running up and down the stairs she's done, I don't have the heart to tell her we really should use a bigger bowl. We put it under the u-joint and K gets to work.
She is like a surgeon and I am her assistant.

"Wrench," she says. I give her a wrench.

"Other wrench," she says. I give her the other wrench.

"Bigger wrench," she says. I give her the bigger wrench. She pushes and pulls, twists and turns.

Finally, it comes loose and she realizes that water and other stuff is going to coming splashing down when she removes the fittings.

"I need a glove! I'm not touching that stuff!" she squeals. I find her a disposable glove and she finishes loosening the fittings. I hear a splash, a plink, and K shouts, "Ew, it's green!"

She jumps back and rips the glove off, throwing it into the trash as fast as she can. I remind her she still has to get the bowl out from under the sink and pluck the earring out of the water.

I get her another glove.

She pulls the bowl out and there is the pearl earring. We look at each other, grinning from ear to ear, and high five. She pulls the earring out of the clear water (green, K?) and starts to put the fittings back.

Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey, she sings under her breath. Fittings tight, nothing leaking, we heave a sigh of relief.


I realized later that K now had her proof how much I loved her. I wrestled plumbing, and yucky water, and her father's wrath to get her earring back. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't easy, but it was love.


  1. I love this entire post. ♥ And your girl is gorgeous. Those eyes! That smile! She's lovely. Sweet post all-around.