House Kirkland

Around 2:30p on Christmas Day, we paused the cleaning, feeding and treating treadmill to get ready to meet family for dinner, when I heard a shriek from the upstairs bathroom, “OMG!!! There’s no hot water!!!” To be honest, I thought the water in the laundry room was colder than usual but shrugged it off to the aging infrastructure of House Kirkland wobbling under more critters onsite than the architect intended. But now with Mama Su’s teeth chattering—“Wahh issss gggoinnnggg onnn…IIII hhhhavvv ttttooo gggetttt rreadddyyy”, I hustled outside to check the propane tank that fuels our heat and hot water…empty.
Returning inside and making the regrettable suggestion that no one would notice if Su had showered or not, I insisted on proving my Maine roots with at once the shortest and longest shower of my life. I conceded a little bit on the drive—“Ok, there was shrinkage…”—but the dinner was otherwise pleasant with Chef Soupy Douangmala's crabcakes, prime rib, bourbon bread pudding on point and enough wine to take the edge off the climate disaster back home.
After selfies and hugs, we returned to a frigid house, and Mama Su challenged me to solve the problem RFN—using the practical, “We have laundry!” and somewhat darker, “Babies will freeze.” to prompt my immediate attention. I countered with the obvious—“Babies won’t freeze. They’re wearing fur coats…”—but salvaged the relationship with a commitment that “The propane guy will be here in the morning. You’ll have heat when you wake up.”
If you’ve ever been involved in disaster relief, you’ll find there’s an outpouring of support that starts in chaos and becomes organized over time. So it was later that night when I crawled into bed with temperatures plummeting through the low 60s and tapped the covers with a “Come keep Dad warm…” prompting Harry, Siena, Jean, Mr. Han, Gigi and Fluff to launch onto the bed and jostle for position like furry walruses establishing hierarchy on the beach.
I’m not how I fell asleep in the Hop on Pop scrum, but I did, and I awoke to find them surprising well-organized on and around me maximizing coverage of my body—even Maddie had joined the effort. Congratulating myself on their selflessness and clear sense of my worth to the organization, I disassembled the pet pile so I could get up and solve the propane problem before Mama Su got up and checked to see if, as promised, she had heat when she woke up.
Sometime before 8 AM, the propane guy arrived to refill the tank and I called our plumber to make sure I didn’t wake and bake everyone with a massive explosion when I restarted the water heaters and furnaces. The plumber confirmed my work but added, “Don’t forget to reset the floor heaters…Your cats won’t like those cold floors.” My fantasy about the compassion and altruism of my bedmates evaporated, but there was hot water for the laundry, babies didn’t freeze and an 11 AM text “Hot water! Yayy!!” said all was right at House Kirkland again.
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