Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pickles and Peroxide

“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”

- Mark Twain

Because I grew up in a less-than-happy house, I wanted my own home to be filled with love and laughter. I don’t want job searching and query rejections to leave a cloud over my kids’ heads. Have I succeeded? I hope so. Here’s a short window into our home:

Exhibit A

Sunday night, my husband and I were preparing dinner. For some reason that morning, my husband bought a GIANT jar of pickles. If you saw how crammed our refrigerator already is, you can imagine why I’d nag about said pickles.

While I tried to get my son to wonder with me why we needed such a large jar. He said, “Can I have a pickle?”

Guess my husband would be finding room in the fridge sooner than later.

My son put his pickle on the plate and left to set the table. I decided to take a bite of his pickle and pretend I didn’t do it.

Wow, it was sourer than I thought it would be.

While I chewed, I returned to the sink to wash dishes. I turned to see my husband take a bite off the other end of the pickle and return to the stove. That made me giggle. The vinegar burned the back of my throat. I began to cough and tears streamed out of my eyes.

My husband laughed at my appearance. This made him double over, coughing. I almost got control of it, but then glimpsed my husband, felt the sting, and started hacking all over again. My son returned to the room with my husband still laughing and choking and me spitting pickle bits into the sink.

“What’s going on with you guys?” he asked.

“We… were… playing… a joke on you… by biting your pickle.”

Exhibit B

Monday morning, my son and I lounged around reading, doing laundry, editing, and playing video games (guess who did what). Since my daughter is visiting her grandparents in New York, I decided to take my son out to lunch, just the two of us.

Around 10:00 am, my son returned to the living room from the bathroom. “We have no water.”

A couple of weeks ago, our third floor neighbor told us last minute a plumber was here because her shower hadn’t worked, so for two hours we were stuck without water when my nephew was visiting. We were smelly hostages in our own home. Was she getting work done again and failed to tell us?

I noticed there were several orange Cambridge-city trucks parked on our side street. Was it related?

I tried the water. Nothing.

“It’s probably the city, temporarily shutting off the water while they work. Let’s wait a little while. If it doesn’t turn back on, I’ll go out there and ask,” I said.

About fifteen minutes later, the water returned in little bursts. Was it beige? Must be a trick of the eyes. I ran it more. Nah, seemed clear. I announced the triumphant return of our water supply, and brushed my teeth and washed my face.

Then I turned on the shower...

It was like a scene out of a horror movie. Mixed in with the brown water, were bits of I don’t know what. Small enough to go down the drain at least.

Aaack! Was this the same water I’d just brushed my teeth with? I turned back on the sink water. Brown. What was in that water? Would I get sick? I put peroxide in my mouth and swished it vigorously. As my mouth fizzed, I realized I couldn’t exactly rinse it out with the contaminated. I ran to the kitchen and retrieved lemonade from my ultra-crowded (due to the pickles) fridge. I tipped lemonade in my mouth.

Except that I had just brushed my teeth… so, you know… lemonade.

I spit out the lemonade. I did it three more times to make sure I didn’t die of brown water bacteria or peroxide poisoning.

Then I went outside to talk to the workers. Turns out we had a water main break. Some “sediment” leaked into the pipe until they were able to repair it. (In a city, “sediment” means “You don’t want to know”.) I was told to run the water until it was clear and all should be well.

I did. After a few minutes of chunky brown water, it ran clear. I showered.

My son and I left for a lovely sushi lunch. We talked, we shared, we laughed.

See, my family is filled with the laughter I’d always hoped for.


  1. LOL!!! You certainly are filling life with laughter. We have problems with our water here, so we bought a filter you put on the water line where the line comes into the house. Now, when they flush the hydrants (or break a main) we don't get the colored, debris filled water, BUT we don't have a filter that lasts as long as the three months its supposed to, either! All in all, I'd rather be changing the filter every 2 months.

  2. Glad you have such a good attitude toward it all. I tend to nag my husband too much when he buys big quantities, which he loves to do. I need your attitude more.

  3. This post made me smile. A happy home is filled with laughter and fun. Being able to laugh together at the simple things is what makes it happy. Here's to your happy home!

  4. Yay for pickles and brown water! LOL!!!

    And laughter!! Always have laughter -so good for you!

    Take care

  5. Nothing beats true laughter. We've had some rough times but somehow all we talk about are the laughs -- and it begins again.
    I'd say our families, yours and mine, are very blessed.

  6. Considering my current family consists of 3 dogs and me, I'd say we laugh. But I really appreciate you sharing your laughs, they seem more human than mine. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  7. This made ME laugh! You are blessed with a great family and house filled with laughter no matter what's going on :)

  8. excellently fun stories!
    we hav moments like those sometimes but they are so fleeting, i should write more down =D

  9. I second what Kathleen said - you made me laugh:)

    Recently, my sister and I were at our dad's house. She ran some water in her cup and drank some before she realized it was tinted brown. The look on her face was priceless!

  10. Haha, too cute! It's definitely important to have a lot of laughter in your life--looks like you're doing a great job!

  11. These are great moments--it's really the little things that one remembers. And teaching your kids how to see the humor in, ahem, crappy situations makes them so much more capable of handling life, I think.

  12. Hi Theresa .. great stories and I can see you both doubled up with mirth and spitting fire and brimstone bullets of pickle around the kitchen .. what you didn't say was - what your son thought of the pickles?

    Gosh .. filthy water - yugh .. I'm glad it got sorted .. BUT .. it seems you're not sick .. and then you went out for sushi .. that could have been interesting!

    Laughter is the best medicine though ...

    Cheers Hilary

  13. @ Mary, Cambridge's water is supposed to be good. I have a filter for my fridge, which came out clear, so I guess it's a strong one!

    Sorry your water filter needs constant replacing.

    @ Natalie, nagging and laughing may not work any better to change behavior, but it's funner.

    @ Choices, it is fun when we can laugh at ourselves. Life is serious enough, right?

    @ Old Kitty, I had a story in between about getting stuck in the pouring rain in Rockport and seeking shelter in a chocolate shop. But since I didn't get a chocolate-covered pretzel, I didn't have another "P" for my title. Oh wait, I got a peanut butter cup! Sounds less tragic to brag about delicious chocolates instead of choking on pickles and gargling with peroxide!

    @ Carole, that's a nice way to look at it. Thanks!

    @ GigglesandGuns, sometimes the hard times become funny times. That makes it all better. I'm glad to hear you're blessed too.

    @ Jules, animals are great companions. I love my cat. I think she's my muse. (Or as my daughter says, my mews.)

    @ Kathleen, glad I gave you a laugh!

    @ Tara, I've probably lost a ton of good stories pre-blogging. I have a great decapitated bird one, believe it or not.

    @ Melissa, yuck. Why was it brown? Speaking of sisters and you mentioning my sister (Kathleen, above), I have a great story about her ingesting turkey fat on a dare.

    @ Meredith, thanks. We just have to make sure we don't cross the line into teasing.

    @ Julie, we do need humor to handle life. I hope my children realize it too.

    @ Hilary, I just asked him. He said, "They're okay." But it's hard to get him to respond when he's playing video games. At that time, he had no problem eating the pickle with both ends eaten off.

    We already had the plans for sushi. I was a little concerned about what I was putting my poor body through! Luckily it worked out okay.

    Cheers to you!

  14. Lol. Those are two funny stories. That's what happens when you take a bite out of someone's pickle.

    I would have been horrified about the water. I only have Diet Coke to rinse with.

    Humor is important to me. No matter what's going on, I need to laugh a bit.

  15. The pickle story is especially hilarious, but I loved reading this whole post! It's so important to keep your sense of humor~ thanks for the great reminder!

  16. My son and I were watching TV last night and he made some joke about a commerical. It was really dumb, but that's what made it so funny. We couldn't stop laughing, to the bemusement of my husband and other kids who hadn't heard my son's comment. That's when I realized how important laugher is. It helped my son and I bond even more. It was a private moment just between us.

  17. hmm..lovely brown water. lol
    (and I love the pickle story)

  18. Funny stories, Theresa. Thank you for sharing these with us. I couldn't stop laughing when I read the one about the pickle. LOL.

  19. Great stories. And they'll be great inside jokes in years to come. (My mom and I have one. "Gee, it smells like the ocean." Cracks us up every single time.)

  20. So funny! I love the pickle story. That sounds like something I'd do to my kids. It's great that it back fired. Ha!

  21. And I thought I was the only one these kinds of things happened too! Once when the city was working on the sewer lines, I didn’t realize it and thought the toilet bowl water was sloshing due to a California quake.

  22. Yay, you! That's something to be proud of. It really, really is.

  23. I hate to do this, but I have to side with your husband on this one: one can never have too many pickles.

  24. I started laughing at the description of the shower; that would have totally freaked me out if that happened to me! Until the super in my building fixed the screens on my windows, I had a bug problem in my bathroom in particular. I always used to check the tub for insects before I took a shower, because I had this fear that I would turn on the faucet and spiders would come out instead of water.
    Your family life sounds wonderful. It's always good to grow up in a family that can laugh together.

  25. Ahh, the curse of the pickles. Brushing your teeth with lemonade will certainly wake one up--if you were not already...

  26. @ Medeia, that IS what happens when you take a bite out of someone's pickle! Lesson learned.

    I bet Diet Coke wouldn't have been as bitter after teeth brushing!

    @ Jess, I agree. It is important to keep our sense of humor.

    @ Stina, I love funny, private moments. It's nice to have the special things to share with just one person.

    @ Lynda, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

    @ Len, the pickle one was so funny to me even in the moment because the absurdity of the whole thing was pretty obvious. My son was the perfect straight man.

    @ Liz, I wonder what the story behind that is! We have a few ourselves. We take anything mundane and say, ".... is tearing our family apart!"

    @ ER King, my son's curious face made me laugh (and choke) even more.

    @ Michelle, we all like our toilet water still, don't we? Yikes!

    @ Anita, stealing bites out of my son's pickle and choking on the vinegar is one of my proud parenting moments. I have many.

    @ Missed Periods, you and Snooki with your pickles!

    I'll have to agree to disagree.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, a buggy bathroom? The room where you get naked? *Shudder*

    The good thing about laughing at ourselves (and each other) is that if a temper flares up, it can usually be put out pretty quickly.

    @ Slamdunk, I don't recommend the lemonade dental program, so you can cross that one off your list.

  27. Good for you! I giggled over the pickle bits.

  28. Lovely pickle story hee hee. I was giggling while I read it.

    Oh and I'm glad that the brown water went away. You have me curious though...what is sediment if it isn't just dirt? Are we talking poo?

  29. It sounds like you have achieved your goal! It is nice to have a great family bond and share adventures together. :)

  30. I think I may have just gagged a little at the second "brown" story!! ick

    The pickle one sounds like it could have happened in my house -too funny!

  31. We should have fun in life. Laughter is good for the body and the soul. I think fun and good humor encourage creativity. I grew up with parents who liked to have fun and I was the same way with my own kids.
    I like your approach with laughter in the home.

    Tossing It Out

  32. My childhood house was less than happy also, so I can understand your wanting to make your own home a haven for your husband and children. Sounds like you're doing a fantastic job. These scenes are wonderful. I love reading personal stories, stories about families--all kinds of families, the "happy" ones and the "not so happy" ones. Yours is obviously one of the happy ones, filled with love and laughter.

    Thanks so much for sharing these today. I LOVE them! They're full of sensory details that are the hallmark of great writing. Vinegar and pickles. My mother had a ceramic pickling container. I can still see and smell them. And I can also relate to an overstocked refrigerator!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

  33. That's lovely, Theresa. It's so nice to see these happy snippets of others' fun families. I remember lots of moments like this during the summers with my sister, grandmother and great aunt. Silly stuff that was lots of fun and would hardly make sense if you tried to retell the stories to anyone else (like my aunt reading the ingredients list off something or other. The way she read it was hilarious at the time, but it's hard to explain to those who weren't there!).
    I love pickles. Yum yum.

  34. That is AWESOME. I've also always wanted a household of laughter and backfiring jokes.

  35. What great stories. How creative you are to use lemonade to rinse out your mouth.

  36. Thanks for making me laugh this early in the morning! I love moments like these :) Btw, the conference was awesome! I'm still reeling from everything I learned and all the amazing authors I got to meet. Th greats were there as well--Judy Blume, Norton Juster, Gary Paulsen, and Richard Peck. Wish I had bumped into you there! I'm dying to blog about my conference experience but I'm currently in "Dark mode" trying to finish a manuscript. drat.

  37. omg! You could've died!!! :D j/k... but how hilariously ew. Brown water's the worst... And that pickle thing is great. JRM likes to take bites out of things and leave them. I try to be disapproving, but I'm always snorting... :D

    And kudos to you for keeping the writing pain out of the homelife. I try to do the SAME thing--sometimes I'm better at it than others...

    Here's hoping~ :o)

  38. Aw, that's such a great post, Theresa! I love it. How lovely your home is filled with so much laughter!

    PS - Thanks for putting me on your sidebar!

  39. There was a sewer problem here last year; the water turned all brown and gritty. I accidentally forgot it was like that (it had been around for over a day by then) and filled my cup and drank some of the water. It was dark. I was thirsty. :P

    I love laughter. What a great story! :)

  40. Worse that brown-water bacteria is the disease you imagine you get when you drink it, LOL!

  41. *loves* :)

    I didn't grow up in a happy home either. And I too made myself the same promise...a family life full of love, affection and laughter. Well, it's easy. I have such a funny, patient, loving husband, it's impossible not to crack up 10 times/day. Our daughter is a pleasantly spoiled kid. You and I are blessed. *hugs*

    Thank you for sharing your little slices of life...and EWWW for the chunky brown water. O_0
    But, YUMMMM for the pickles. :D


  42. I scanned the comments and I can't believe I'm the first to say it! It seems you were in a pickle with your water supply. But you always do your best to play the cards you've been dillt (dealt).

    By your description of those pickles, they don't sound like the fresh kind, do they really need to be refrigerated?

    Thumbs up for bringing happiness to the world. : j

  43. "A less than happy house" is required for comedy, isn't it?

    Biting pickles, coughing, and spitting -- I can't get the visual out of my head!! FUNNY!!!

  44. @ Carol, glad I gave you a giggle over the pickle.

    @ Michael, underground city dirt? I assume, rat droppings, lead contamination, and so on. I don't want to think about it!

    @ Karen, sharing adventures together - I like the way that sounds.

    @ Christina, sorry I made you gag.

    @ Arlee, nice to know you grew up in a happy home and got to pass that on to your own kids.

    @ Ann, I'm sorry you didn't grow up in a happy home. I know you've worked hard to provide for your family.

    Thanks for the compliment about my writing.

    @ Deniz, inside jokes are one of the best parts of family. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    @ Sophia, thanks! I appreciate the comment.

    @ Angela, thanks for calling my lemonade debacle "creative". Now that I think about it, I think we had 1 bottle of water in the pantry.

    @ Nutschell, you just named 3 of my favorite authors. My envy knows no bounds.

    @ LTM, taking bites out of things and leaving them? I'm always trying to get my son to put away the milk and cereal box that he leaves on the counter. But when he was young, he'd eat bits of things off the floor. (cringe). We've progressed!

    @ Talli, I'm excited about your book and writing the blog post.

    @ The Golden Eagle, aack! You're making me gag.

    @ Lydia, exactly! I was shocked I didn't get sick. It hasn't put faith in Cambridge "sediment", but rather my immune system.

    @ Lola, I'm glad to know after growing up in an unhappy home, you were able to create a happy home for yourself and your family.

    @ Alesa, thanks for the laugh. These were kosher pickles that said, "Refrigerate after opening".

    For the record, after that first night, NOBODY has opened the jar. Yesterday and today, my husband has reminded my son that there are pickles to be eaten. Good thing we have a giant jar of pickles nobody is eating. If we throw it out before finishing, I'll get to say, "I told you so." If we finish it, he'll get to say, "I told you so." Since they probably last forever, I'm going to lose. But it means I'll have months, if not years, to bring it up.

    @ Wayne E, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  45. Thanks for sharing your laughter! I love incidents like these - you are right, this is what makes families healthy. Being silly and being able to make fun of ourselves! Too bad it had to occur with two such mouth-watering, ah, stinging events - but sounds like in the final analysis you didn't mind!

  46. @ Margo, the funniest moments are usually the grossest, most embarrassing, rain-soaked, and so on. It's better to laugh and complain, or at least laugh through the complaints!

  47. Love these stories. :) So funny.

    I agree that children should be spared as much as possible, and not involved in all the "trouble."

  48. @ LR, thank you. I hope you're having a good weekend.