My husband and I had been working long hours after work, trying to finish a kitchen and guest bedroom project in preparation for a young mom and the baby she is expecting next month. The previous September, we had won a bid–with two other couples–for a week at a condo in Big Sky, Montana. It was scheduled for July 23-30, 2011. On one hand, it was difficult for us to leave when we were getting close to finishing what we planned to in the house. On the other hand, we thought it would be good to get away, relax and have fun with friends.
I finished painting the guest bedroom walls and all the woodwork in the upper level two days before we left. The same day the drywall taper finished his job which included spraying our kitchen ceiling. So we left with confidence that we’d get done what we needed to when we returned–in time for a shower I was hosting at the end of August, and before our new family moved in in September. That was July twenty-second.
We arrived in Big Sky on the twenty-third and settled in, surrounded by the beauty of the mountains. We attended a country church, enjoyed an open air concert, hiked, went horseback riding, drove into Yellowstone and saw Old Faithful, who is now faithful about every ninety minutes or so.
On the twenty-seventh, Dan and I went to visit his niece who lives about 100 miles west of Big Sky. We were almost at her house when one of my daughters called with bad news. A fitting broke in our second floor bathroom and flooded our house, perhaps for three days. A check with the city revealed about 3,000 gallons of water dumped into our house.
When my daughter and her three small children walked up to check the house, they saw water running out of the house onto the front patio. Bad sign. The water was two inches deep on the main level and ankle deep in the basement. The second floor carpet was soaked. Fortunately, my daughter is practical and knew the first thing to do was shut off the water. While they were there, the living room ceiling fell down. My grandson cried, “What is happening to Grandma and Grandpa’s house?”
We were 1,100 miles from home and helpless. Our daughter called the insurance company, who gave her the name of the restoration company. They called people off other jobs and pulled out the wet carpet, the laminate floors, the rest of the ceilings that hadn’t fallen, a lot of the sheet-rocked walls. In the others, they drilled holes along the bottom to aid in the drying process. They brought in their huge dehumidifiers–called air louvers–and around twenty big fans.
The company moved some of the furniture out and put the rest of it up on Styrofoam blocks to dry. My son’s girlfriend took pictures and emailed them to us. It’s not a pretty sight to see your ceiling draped all over your furniture. My son told me, “I think the insurance company is just going to write you a check for the house.” We didn’t know what to expect, but we expected the worst. So when we walked in two days later and saw our house was actually still standing, it didn’t seem so bad.
We removed and stowed all the contents of our closets, cupboards, buffets, dressers, computer cabinet, television cabinet, bookshelves, and put it all in storage. You think you know how much stuff you have until you actually pack it up in storage bin after storage bin.
Now we are playing the waiting game. We’re holed up in a hotel, waiting on bids from contractors, but mostly waiting on approval from the insurance adjuster. Dan and I look at each other and say, “We just want to be home.” I’m starting to feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. There’s no place like home.
Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar by the River