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Saturday, July 29, 2017

(3) VONNIE POUNDED ON THE DOOR. "COME QUICKLY!"

December 30, 1962
     Earlier this week we had a spell of bitterly cold weather, and hundreds of families, including ours, suffered damage to their homes. The cold spell was accompanied by frigid gale winds. The furnace did its best to rise to the occasion but couldn't keep ahead of the draughts that penetrated our weather-beaten old house.
     "Okay, that does it!" Ed said as he climbed into bed Sunday night. "The minute the kids are grown up and gone, you and I are moving to Florida and never coming back."
     During the night the furnace broke down; we awoke to a freezing house and no water in the taps. The plumber said we were number twelve on his list, and he'd take care of us when he could.
     Ed sent down a couple of fellows from the shop. They thawed out the pipes with blowtorches and got the furnace going again. Since the house was still cold and drafty by evening, we had our snack in front of the kitchen stove, then went upstairs to rest for a couple of hours before the Churchills' annual Open House. Ed dozed off immediately, but I couldn't sleep, convinced I could hear water dripping outside our bedroom door. Pretty soon the drip became a drizzle.
     I was having a small debate with myself: "Protecting the repose of the family breadwinner is a wife's duty." "Yeah, but Investigating Noises is a man's job," when a pair of feet raced up the stairs.
     "Mummy! Daddy!" Vonnie pounded on the door. "Come quickly! There's a whole bunch of water coming down through the ceiling!"
     Ed jumped out of bed, threw on his bathrobe, and hurried downstairs. I stayed where I was, certain that Investigating Displaced Bunches of Water was his department.
     The first thing he did was shut off the hot water system. The house was soon stone cold again, and so was Ed. When I next saw him he was wearing Vonnie's raccoon coat over his pajamas and bathrobe (the sleeves ended just below his elbows) and was shuffling from chore to chore in a pair of antiquated sheepskin lined slippers. My housekeeper later confided she thought his outfit was a riot but deemed it advisable, in view of her employer's serious demeanor, to keep her merriment to herself.
     "The radiator burst in your mother's room," he reported glumly. "You might as well stay in bed --there's nothing you can do, and at least you'll be warm."
     I got up long enough to watch Ed and Mrs. White placing wastebaskets under various waterfalls still bubbling from Kathie's ceiling. I was depressed to see what had happened to the attractive wallpaper she chose herself when she was only twelve. When Ed couldn't track down a plumber who would cap the radiator, he devised a temporary cap by whittling down a couple of corks.
     An interesting sidelight on adolescent boys and their powers of concentration:
     At the time the radiator burst on the third floor, Mrs. White stepped into the pantry to put dishes in the cupboard. Vonnie, who was watching TV in the playroom, called to her, "Mrs. White, I hear water running somewhere."
     Mrs. W. glanced into the dining room and was transfixed by what she saw. Ted, Tim, Neil and Ronnie, engrossed in a noisy game of poker, were sitting at the table with their sleeves rolled up, oblivious to the drops of water splashing among the stacks of chips. All around them a shower was cascading from the ceiling, but the boys continued to frown at their cards and place their bets, an island unto themselves.
     "Quick Vonnie, get your father!" said Mrs. White.
     The boys blinked, looked around, then jumped to their feet and began moving the chairs toward drier territory, taking down the wet draperies, and covering the table with newspapers. I never did hear who won the poker game.

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