Friday, December 28, 2012

The Year Everything Broke But My Heart

The Year Everything Broke But My Heart:

Many things break our hearts in life and if we're wise, we'll heed Leonard Cohen's lyrics from his song Anthem, “There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.” So when things in my life started to break throughout the summer of 2012, I tried to appreciate that these were all just broken things. It began with the dishwasher. Well, no big deal, my husband and I said to each other, we'll just wash dishes by hand. Then the taps on the main floor began spouting water everywhere. They needed to be replaced. Then the taps on the tub. Same thing. When my husband cut the pipe and brought it into the plumbing shop, the guy said “I myself have never seen a pipe like this, but my boss has.” Apparently, the pipe was as old as the house, which is 105 years old, and it was no simple task to match it up. To make a long story short, we had to order in special parts and for two weeks, we weren't able to shower or bathe in our home. I found an old wash basin in the basement, hauled it upstairs and began sponge bathing.

When my kids called, I proudly bragged about the sponge-bathing and how we used to sponge bath when I grew up and how we were only allowed to take a bath once a week and even then, we were only allowed four inches of water in the tub. Oh yes, wasn't I proud of myself for adapting and simplifying and not complaining about the fact that we had to wait for the plumbing parts to arrive. However, on about day seven, I noticed that I was phoning the plumbing shop daily to see if the parts had arrived yet. By day ten, I was now visiting my mother's house on a regular basis in order to shower as I had come to despise sponge bathing. By day fourteen, the parts had arrived. Out came the blow torch, out came the tools and my husband went to work on that miserable job. Twelve hours later, we had a functioning bath and shower.

I thought my streak of breakage was winding down. I was sadly mistaken. Next went the vacuum cleaner. Then the car broke down.... to the tune of $750. When we brought the car in to be fixed, we left it overnight at the shop and during the night, it got “keyed”. Before this incident, I did not know what it meant to be “keyed”. Now I know. Someone takes a key and scratches a deep groove into the car, from front to back. The car repairman felt badly for us and spray painted the groove with a colour that sort of matches the car. Okay, so now surely we've reached our quota for broken things, I thought. There can't be more, can there?

The next thing to go was the oven. Now you have to know that I love my 20-inch wide gas stove. It's cooked thousands of meals since my firstborn child was a toddler. It's got us through good winters and bad. It's filled the house with the rich smells of rice puddings and baked chickens and roasted vegetables. I wasn't ready to give up on my stove, so we bought a small confection oven and I continued to use the top of the stove, which was still functioning. Then one day the stove began to leak gas. I called in the gasman and he broke it to me as gently as possible but the sad truth was he had to condemn the stove. Yes, it's true, stoves can be condemned, even stoves that have served their masters faithfully for close to thirty years without complaint.

But I'm still not through my list. One week, it rained and rained and rained. We have an old back porch and the wooden posts of that old back porch, we discovered, weren't driven deep into the ground. After all that rain, stepping out onto that back porch was a bit like land surfing. The porch had literally moved ten inches away from the back door. This is not exactly a safe thing when you have a 90-year-old aunt and an 88-year old uncle who both visit on a regular basis. So guess what? We needed to dismantle our porch and down went the clothesline along with the porch. Being that we don't have a dryer, this added another annoying inconvenience to our lives.

So how many broken things am I up to now? The dishwasher, the upstairs taps, the downstairs taps, the car, the stove, the vacuum cleaner, the back porch, the clothesline and did I mention the cassette player? (I know it's pathetic that we still play cassettes but all of our best music is on cassettes.) There were a few other things that may or may not quite classify as broken, such as the birds living in our attic, happily flying in and out from the holes in the old wooden boards under the eaves. That was lots of fun but I think I'll save that story for my next episode.

For months, I've wanted to write about these broken things as a kind of cathartic experience for myself, but I couldn't and guess why I couldn't.... because I had broken my wrist and couldn't write! But I'm proud to report that my cast is off and I'm cresting a new year. Let me complete my little story by saying that my mantra throughout all these annoyances has been, “Things may be breaking around me but I am grateful that it's not my heart that's broken.” Hence, the title of my little story!

Happy 2013. I wish for you all happy hearts with just enough cracking for the light to find its way in!  


  1. You must have a lot of light surrounding you right now, from all those cracked and broken things! Thanks for a great story.

  2. oh. my. lord.
    What a litany of brokenness.
    I felt the pain of each new broken thing.
    But, somehow, your heart didn't break. (?)
    (And I now remember sponge-bathing, but kind-of wish I didn't.)
    Oh well: we're all broken, yet somehow survive.