sing it with me: "In the ghetto…"

When the kids and I came home today at noon my water had been shut off. A bummer, to be sure – but I knew we were overlate paying the bill. And in our household, knowing a financial bombshell is looming is still far, far better than being surprised by one.

A sad but practical aspect of being raised po’ white is that you are often very good in a crisis* (I know my life is generally not worthy of the sweeping term “crisis” – but you know, you can’t even use your crapper when you’re water is shut off, and I had two wee ones and all, so I’m gonna keep the word as-is here). Of course, I’m not good in a crisis if my husband is around, because he is Alpha Male when things get tough. I once saw him tear off his shirt and put it over his face, ninja-like, to dive into a burning house (the one he was renting), rescue our cat, and put the fire out. In the face of that kind of moxie, I’m usually allowed to be the fluffy-headed female.

But today, by myself with two grubby kids, diapers, and dishes to do, I knew I had to woman-up to the job. First: email my husband to let him know (two minutes). Set my kids down for naps (ten minutes). Pop over the wall next door. Fill a couple of tureens full from her hose (yes, she was aware I was doing this). Back home, heat water. Pour boiling water in sink for dishes (actually, a lovely way to clean – soaping them when your hands are just able to stand the scalding temperature). Carefully scoop clean, sterlized water out with a glass for handwashing (the kids’ and mine). Cold water in toilet tank for the flush. Relax for one minute and thirty seconds before moving on to nap chores as usual. Oh, and did I mention in this brief hour and a half before I left for a birthday party I managed to sew a purse and make a card for a three-year-old?

Still, as busy as I was, it was tempting to feel a bit sad at first. I hate having to bother Ralph at work for drama. I hate getting mean phone calls saying, “Hey, are you gonna pay us our money?” So, in this preoccupied state, after I made the dismaying water discovery and emailed my husband, I went out to the car to take the kids in. I opened the door and Sophie quickly gestured to me – keep quiet! – while pointing to Nels. He had fallen asleep in the mere four minutes I’d been inside. I let Sophie out of her carseat and she slid by him, patting him gently. I held his sleep-limp, sweet-smelling form in my arms and he breathed deep, relaxed. Inside, I slid his coat off and tucked him into the crib, sighing with him as he settled.

Events may occasionally conspire to make my life difficult, but there are certain things that matter more than the rest.

* One of the behaviors that sets po’ white away from white trash is that, when said self-inflicted or poverty-related crisis occurs, po’ white handle it with dignity. White trash handle it loudly or, occasionally, criminally.

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