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The Summer We Hope to Forget

Having lived in church parsonages for many years, we felt elated while buying a place to call our own. But no one warned us about the hazards of home ownership.

This new-to-us property sat on a remote gravel road with an occasional farmer rambling by on a piece of equipment. We saw pickup trucks rumble down the road and waved to Old Order Mennonite neighbors as they clip-clopped past in their horse-drawn buggies. Life became peaceful and slow.

The peace didn’t last long, however. We discovered that other property owners forgot to tell us the propensity of things we now owned to break, sag, spring leaks, and fall apart. And to think, it all happened one summer.

“Mom, the riding mower won’t work anymore,” sighed our teenage son as he entered the kitchen one sunny June day.

“Well, I guess you’ll have to mow our three acres with the push mower,” I said.

“That mower’s so tiny, by the time I finish, it’s time to start over again,” he quipped. I knew he was right. Missouri summers are so hot a person works up a sweat just standing still.

A month later, the same son pushed open the screen door. “Um, Mom, I can’t get the push mower or the weed eater to work.”

“What! Really?” I gasped. “Know anybody with a goat we can borrow?” That was only the beginning of The Summer to Remember.

“Yeck! My socks are wet!” shrieked out teenage daughter in July. “Dad, there’s water dripping under the refrigerator!” Our trusty old fridge had indeed sprung a leak, ruining the leaf to our beautiful dining room table, stored beside it. So much for having nice possessions.

Snap! went the vinyl miniblinds one morning as I raised them to peek outside. “Dear, the inside cord on these crazy blinds just broke!”

“Can’t you fix them?” said our resident repair man.

“Uh, no. I tried. A couple slats broke off in my hand. And now they hang crooked. It’s a good thing we have no close neighbors on that side.”

Those were minor compared to what came next. “Well, the Jeep overheated on my way to work,” my husband announced as he dropped his lunch pail on the counter. By the end of the week the power steering pump fizzled and the radiator blew.

Broken-down Jeeps make interesting lawn ornaments. I offered to have a load of dirt hauled in so we could cover it and plant flowers on top.

We graduated to a Toyota minivan. Eager at first to drive in style, we soon learned gravel roads make poor bedfellows with moving parts like sliding doors. One day while I was driving our horse-and-buggy Mennonite neighbors to town, the door track became coated with gravel dust and breathed its last. It was humiliating to drive with the side door open. My passengers arrived home, covered with grey road grime.

A strong friend tried to open the tail hatch while it was locked, and snap! No more working handle on the tail hatch. The belt on the condenser started squealing and the air conditioner refused to work. (What we couldn’t anticipate was the month of November when we would hit a deer and make the turn signal fall out.)

Could there be more? Oh, yes! The wooden front steps to our house began to sag in the middle. We held our breath when overweight friends tread on them.

You would think that would be enough excitement for one summer. It was not. August arrived, and with it, ambitious plans for a two-week vacation. We planned to leave early morning and drive to a family camp halfway across the continent. A pre-dawn start would help beat the heat.

Plans at our house are a source of constant amusement. The night before leaving, our washing machine quit working—while filled with a load of heavy jeans. We emptied the washer with a saucepan and hung jeans on the line to drip dry.

And to think it all happened in a summer—the one we hope to forget. The sagging front steps should have been an omen to our visitors. Broken cars, broken mowers, broken fridge and washer, miniblinds that added a touch of hillbilly chic to the side of our house⸺ all in the name of home ownership. I think I’ll check the want ads for rentals any day now.

What about you? Any days or weeks like this? Use the comment section below to let us know about your mishaps.


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