Old houses are often described as having charm, and our house, built in 1922, qualifies as old.
One recent evening, we suffered another of what our daughters describe as “charm attacks.”
My wife and one of the girls were in the kitchen, beginning preparations for dinner with friends. I was working a bit in my home office.
The day had been rainy. Suddenly I heard what sounded like a cloudburst, and started for a window in the next room to get a better view of the storm.
But the deluge wasn’t outside.
Opening my office door, I was met by a cloud of steam and an awful splashing racket.
A pipe supplying hot water to the wash basin in an upstairs bathroom had burst and was in the process of bringing down the ceiling of the entryway directly below.
To say that I am ungifted in responding to such emergencies is a grotesque understatement. The fact is I become catatonic and altogether helpless.
There are capable men in this world. But it was my wife’s misfortune to settle for one who is sorely challenged even to change a light bulb.
In the recent flooding, sensing my utter incapacity, others took charge: Paul, our neighbor immediately to the west; an acquaintance of his, Gary, who has responded to some of our lesser crises; Dan, a daughter’s loyal friend and ours; even the young French woman, Amelie, here from Paris, who’s spending several days with us while her regular hosts are away on a short holiday.
Without a word, she took off her shoes, rolled up the legs of her slacks and waded ankle deep into the sloshing mess of broken plaster.
It’s her first time in the U.S. She’s been here not quite a month, and her perception of life in this country is still being formed.
We’re seen by much of the world as a shamefully indulged people, surrounded by unending excess and luxury.
After the recent untidy calamity, she must be asking herself:
“Is this how Americansreally live?”