March 2007

Simple pleasures

By Suzanne Strazza

There is a new sound in my life that is pure music to my ears…

The sound of a flushing toilet.

Yes, it’s true, I now have both a sink, with hot and cold running water, and a toilet that is indoors.

No more down jacket, sorrells, hat, mittens, scarf and headlamp for that early morning run to the outhouse. No more frozen seats, no more snow blowing in on my exposed flesh. I can now stroll through the door to “the other side” (the side which is the actual house and not the garage), taking my mug of coffee and copy of the Free Press with me, to relax in the warmth of my new house.

Yep, there’s heat over there too. Although, I do still have to do the headlamp thing as there are no light fixtures in place yet.

But, I can wash my hands when I am finished without having to haul the water and heat it up on the stove.

At this point in our lives, I am easily pleased.

Likewise, my family is easily entertained. Last Saturday night, when Tom came over to announce that indeed, we did have a toilet, we all rushed over there, camera in hand, and had a group flush. We even allowed the boys to put their hands in the toilet bowl for their one and only guilt-free opportunity to satisfy their (weird) boyish impulses.

And the sink! For days after that was hooked up, Bowen stopped teasing the kitten for entertainment, instead washing minuscule specks of dirt off his hands with hot water and soap. This, from a child who vehemently protests his weekly bath. Now, he says, “Mama, I’m going to pee… IN THE TOILET!”

The boys want to brush their teeth, wash their faces and have even offered to do the dishes, although they have yet to follow through on this one. I, on the other hand, took three weeks to realize that I no longer had to brush my teeth in the driveway.

I am a bit slow on the uptake.

The one hitch, which is temporary, is that there is still “over here” and “over there.” “Over here” is the garage, where we still reside and “over there” is my new home which is quickly acquiring modern conveniences. As “over there” becomes more comfortable and inviting, “over here” becomes a bit more dreary and stifling (not to mention cold and dark). Yet we remain over here until over there is complete.

I know I am not the first person to have to live without modern conveniences and I know that I could continue on living without a flush toilet but…

I also know that there are people in this world, this country, this county even, who live without; people whose daily lives are much more trying and difficult than mine. The main difference being that I am living this way by choice and many others have no choice.

I am perfectly aware of the hardships of others, but for just a brief moment, I would like to feel properly martyrlike in my own suffering and bask in the sound of running water. I am going to be shallow, self-absorbed and perhaps a bit insensitive.

I will join the ranks of our consumerdriven society, believing that I need more stuff. (Judge me if you will, but, admit it, you too are not always the bleeding-heart liberal you claim to be – I’m just publicly putting it out there.)

So when my high-school friend says, “I can’t believe how tough you are, living in your garage; two kids, three cats, a dog, husband, no heat, no water, in the winter, are you really OK?” I audibly suck it up, raise the back of my hand to my forehead and say, “Oh, don’t worry about us, we’re… surviving. Really.”

In all honesty, the time has gone very quickly and it has been an unforgettable adventure. I wouldn’t have traded this time with my family for anything in the world as it has brought us incredibly close, teaching us many a lesson about need versus necessity, and reminding us to appreciate the little things in life.

But for now, I am counting the days until I move into our house. I daydream about which of my unnecessary items, my stuff, I will enjoy the most; microwave, dishwasher, shower and tub, separate bedrooms, lights, heat, windows that open, washing machine and count ‘em, two flush toilets. I will not for even one tiny second long for the ‘good old days” and I will proudly proclaim myself to be a sell-out.

Some day, I may even get to the point where I take these things for granted, when I actually forget the novelty of choosing hot or cold water. I will leave my martyrdom behind, once again becoming altruistic, lecturing my boys about starving children in Africa and large families in other countries living in one-room shacks. They in turn will roll their eyes at me. But there will always be a certain magic for me which lies in the music made by the flush of the pot.

Suzanne Strazza lives near Mancos, Colo.