Frontier Days for the Klempners
Two days ago, our water heater broke. At first, I didn’t notice—I was too busy ignoring the pile of dirty fleishig dishes still left from Shabbos. It was only when my eldest tried to take a hot shower that the boiler’s failure came to my attention.
Dutifully, my husband pulled up the number of our building’s management on his phone.
“It says to leave a message in an emergency,” he said. “It’s not an emergency, is it?”
“Naah,” I said. “We’ll live till tomorrow.”
My husband filled out a work order on the management company’s website instead.
The next day, an unpleasant odor forced me to come face-to-face with the dishes in my sink. I started washing them with cold water, but the grease would not come off.
“I’ll do it the old-fashioned way,” I muttered, filling a pot with water from the kum-kum my husband had wisely set up after filling out that form the previous evening.
I had to refill the pot a few times, but it did the job.
I was very proud of myself.
That evening, my husband got a hot shower, and we all celebrated.
Our rejoicing was short-lived. After my run the next morning, I tried the faucet to verify that the hot water had returned.
I had to do something—after an hour of exercise, I stank. In the kitchen, I started boiling kettles and pots full of water to add to the frigid bath I was running in the bathroom. I thought that three kettles and two pots of water would be enough to provide me with a warm tub—but no. While no longer freezing, it was barely more than tepid.
That bath was my fastest since the Nine Days.
Not long after I dried off and dressed, one of my children appeared.
“Is the hot water fixed?”
“Nope,” I said solemnly.
My child, who hadn’t bathed since Friday afternoon, turned bright red with fury. “I’m not going anywhere until I bathe!” they declared.
“If it makes you feel any better, I can’t smell you from here,” I replied from my perch, about six feet away.
They were not persuaded.
I offered to boil a few kettles to pour in the tub, but they didn’t want them. Instead, I used the hot water to wash the milchig dishes.
Later that afternoon, I told my woes to my friend Merri. “You’re just like Laura Ingalls Wilder!”
“Well,” I replied, “I did just put up bread dough to rise.”
“Now you need to slaughter a few animals and render the fat.”
“Okay, maybe I’m not Laura Ingalls Wilder.”
Our hot water heater is still out of order, but I’m trying to remind myself that we’re not really roughing it. We have a furnace, flushing toilets, and a roof over our heads. And even if my car is 22 years old, it still runs, baruch Hashem.
Although if my kids start stinking from six feet away, we might be facing an emergency.