Yes, you read that right, I am thankful for sewage.
About now you probably think I’m a little cray-cray. Let me explain.
First, I need to backtrack a bit to when I was first married at the ripe old age of . . . nineteen. My hubby and I were eager to start our family and hoped to have a baby right away.
We waited. And waited. And waited.
I cried, I worried, I begged and earnestly prayed to be blessed with a baby. I began to wonder if we should adopt.
Two years and one miscarriage later, I found out I was expecting. We were so happy. Two years doesn’t seem like a long time in the scheme of things, but even now when I look back on that time, it seems like forever. It felt like everyone around me was having babies and I really wondered if something was wrong with me.
We were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. Seven months later, I was pregnant again with another baby. We were thrilled. Finally, we were being blessed with a family.
It is at this time that my story begins. Just to recap, I’m pregnant and I have a seven month old baby girl.
We lived at Fort Ord, California, an Army base, on the gorgeous Monterey Bay, one of my favorite places in the world. We were assigned a modest three bedroom home and we were happy.
One night I went to a Homemaking meeting where we were making a craft project: Bathroom Bubble People. Yes, you heard me right. In my 1986 mind, I thought it was cute. I didn’t finish the project, so I took it home with me to complete it.
Now let me tell you a few things about myself. I’m not a crafty person. To make matters worse, I HATE unfinished projects. They drive me crazy. They call to me and won’t shut up until I complete them. A dirty house does the same thing to me. Seriously, I could be on my death bed and I’d clean the house before dying.
That being said, I went home and my hubby and I had a late dinner. Early pregnancy made me very tired and for probably the first time in our marriage, I went to bed without doing the dishes and left my kitchen messy. I know, scandalous.
I arose the next morning feeling slightly nauseous, stressed, and anxious. I needed to clean my kitchen and I needed to finish my Bathroom Bubble Person. I didn’t have time for any messing around. I had things to do. I was a woman on a mission.
Still in my pajamas, I greeted my beautiful baby girl, the one I waited and yearned for, the one I begged and prayed for. I changed her diaper, got her dressed, and fed her. Then I set her down to play.
Time to clean my kitchen and finish my Bathroom Bubble Person.
My daughter had other plans. She wanted attention. She wanted to be held. She wanted me to play with her.
I remember my thoughts at that moment vividly to this day. I thought, “I don’t have time for this. I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS. I have things to do. I can’t sit around and hold my baby all day.”
And then it happened. A loud and strange gurgling sound from down the hall. It alarmed me.
I grabbed my precious baby girl and I ran down the hall to investigate. I knew something was terribly wrong even then.
And guess what? I didn’t stop to clean my kitchen before the tragedy unfolded. And I didn’t grab the stupid Bathroom Bubble Person.
I grabbed what was most precious to me: my baby girl.
The sight that met me is not one I will ever forget. There were two bathrooms down the hallway. I paused at the first bathroom and stared in horror.
Black sludge was pouring out of the toilet onto my much loved bright yellow bath rugs. Clutching my daughter, I ran to the next bathroom. The black sludge was pouring out of that toilet as well.
I did what every sane person would do if the blob decided to enter their house through the toilets–I ran.
I ran to the next door neighbor’s house and knocked on the door. It just so happens that they were members of the church. Not only that, the lady of the house was a member of the Relief Society Presidency.
And guess what? They were having Relief Society Presidency meeting at that very moment.
I’m not sure what they expected as they ran to my house to see what was going on. Perhaps they thought I was overreacting to an overflowing toilet. I stayed in my neighbor’s house, pacing the floor, still holding my baby girl. Guess what? I gave no thought to the stupid Bathroom Bubble Person. She quickly became inconsequential.
One of the ladies popped in for a moment and broke the bad news. Her sleeves and pant legs were rolled up. She said, “Your house is full of about two inches of RAW SEWAGE.”
I think I went into shock in that moment. The ladies were running in and out of my house. They were saving as many of our belongings as they could. But, as this point, most of the items that were on or near the floor were basically ruined. I mean, they were drenched in RAW SEWAGE. There’s no recovery from that.
The fire department came. They pumped all the sewage out of my house. But so many things were destroyed and the house was now unlivable. The military bumped the next person on the housing waiting list and granted us a new home immediately–one with an amazing view of the Monterey Bay I might add. (Below is our side yard. You can see the Monterey Bay in the horizon.)
So, what happened? Our home was at the bottom of a slight hill. Somehow there was a huge blockage in the main sewer pipe and when the pressure became too much, it decided to back up into MY home. We were able to write a claim and be re-reimbursed for all of our belongings. But it was several weeks and many hours of hard work before life returned to normal. I suppose I should be grateful this happened in military housing.
Now, I’m not saying that I needed to be taught a lesson and that Heavenly Father caused the sewage to fill my home. But, what I am saying is that I learned an important lesson from this experience, one that I have NEVER forgotten. I associate feeling overwhelmed by minutiae in my life with my house being filled with sewage.
And that is what makes me thankful for sewage.
At this point in my life I was only at the beginning of my journey with motherhood. I had no idea that there would be many, many days where other things would call to me and beg for my time.
Throughout my life, that sewage experience has been a constant reminder to always put my children first. It has come to my mind at the strangest moments and reminded me–and corrected me–and changed my path.
When that sewage filled my home, my thoughts were not in a good place. I remember them vividly–stressful, anxious thoughts. I was on the edge over a BATHROOM BUBBLE PERSON.
Over the years, I have not been perfect at putting my children first. But, I have had a constant reminder, a memory of a moment where I had a choice to make. Would I let meaningless things consume my time or would I concentrate on what was most important and precious to me?
So, yes, I’m thankful for sewage.
BTW, the stupid BATHROOM BUBBLE PERSON did finally get finished. It hung in my bathroom for a few years and then it went out in a trash bag with the giveaway pile during spring cleaning.
I still have my daughter.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:
Most of us have more things expected of us than we can possibly do. As breadwinners, as parents, as Church workers and members, we face many choices on what we will do with our time and other resources.
We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has pleaded that we:
“work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks went on to say:
Some of our most important choices concern family activities. Many breadwinners worry that their occupations leave too little time for their families. There is no easy formula for that contest of priorities. However, I have never known of a man who looked back on his working life and said, “I just didn’t spend enough time with my job.”
May we all examine our lives and put the things that are most important to us first. It isn’t easy. We all have many demands on our time and it’s a constant struggle.
As for me, I’m thankful for my “sewage” reminder.