They had gone for a walk, my parents.  “Do the dishes while we are gone,” one of them must have said.  They left, and my brother Jeremy and I began.  523072112

At 6, I could reach into the sink from the floor, but at 4, Jeremy needed a step stool.  (I don’t know how I remember that since I don’t remember the stool at all.)

We turned on the faucet, the right one for cold and the left one for hot.  (As I write, I remember that the bathroom sink in the basement bathroom of our next house had – and still has – the faucets spinning backwards.)  Jeremy poured in the soap, I imagine. He loved to do such things.

I washed. He rinsed. Dishes into the drainer.  Water still on.

Then, we tried to turn it off. It wouldn’t turn off. Not for all our pulling. Not even when I climbed onto the counter and twisted with both hands.

Water began to pour over the edge of the stainless steel.  A soap waterfall cascading down the front of the gold-wood cabinets. Onto the flowered, beige linoleum.

Jeremy panicked and ran outside.  Later, I would learn that he stood in the yard and screamed, “Help. Someone help,” with all the force his tiny barrel of lungs could muster.

Mr. Hill came running in and turned off the water. He was wearing a blue shirt, and he was a big guy – as in I couldn’t see around him when he walked by me big.  I don’t think he even needed a wrench. (He might, however, have needed a valium since Jeremy gave him quite the scare.)

I must have seemed calm because I don’t have any memory of him staying as Jeremy and I took every towel in the house and layered the linoleum with a pink and yellow terry cloth quilt.

When my parents came home, they laughed, rang out the towels in the washing machine, and suggested, gently, that maybe we could have just reused one towel over and over.

I don’t know why I remember this story so well.  Nothing tragic happened. Nothing particularly funny. And the part that I do remember I didn’t even see – my brother shouting for all he was worth that we needed help.

What I take from this story now is this, though: sometimes, when the simple things of life cascade over you in torrents of bubble that threaten to sink you, step outside, take a deep breath, and scream your fool head off.*  Someone will come running, and it will all be okay.

What do you do when you are overwhelmed or in a fix? When your writing feels like its dry and your mind like Niagara? When you can’t possibly imagine a way out?


*If, like me, you don’t really have neighbors in shouting distance, I recommend a text message, a phone call, a blog post, or an email.  It’s amazing the way people respond when you let them know you need them.

I talk a little bit more about that idea of being vulnerable today in a podcast put together by the great Tammy Helfrich.  I hope you’ll stop by and give it a listen as I talk about God’s Whisper Farm, dreams, and what to do when it seems like the cash is never going to come.