Michelle Martin

Rain, rain go away

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

There’s something mesmerizing about standing in the basement, watching the water as it rises. At first, it’s only in the low patches, running in rivulets from the cracks in the concrete floor.

As it covers more ground, the dry spots become islands. Footsteps splash as you make your way from place to place, moving boxes to the stairs for someone else to stow away from the water, taking apart the drum kit and finding room for its pieces on top of furniture and shelves.

Then, when everything that can be put up is, you watch. You see the fountain bubbling up from the crack in the floor slowly disappear as the standing water overtakes it. You feel the cold wetness, long since soaked into your shoes, climb to your ankles and then past them. You measure with your eyes the distance between the top of the water and the bottom of the water heater.

In our house, that’s when you start bailing, filling plastic bucket after plastic bucket and pouring them into the laundry tub. With three of us bailing, Tony and Caroline and I, we would bend down and fill the buckets and stand up and dump them a few minutes at a time, then have to stop and wait for the water to drain.

Did it do any good, three people with buckets in the basement? I don’t know. Did it do any harm, moving the water from the basement floor to the sanitary sewer via the laundry tub? I don’t think so.

You pause, and you pray. A group Hail Mary before you bail again. Because, as Caroline says, sometimes you have to go to God’s mom to get his attention.

Frank was stationed on the stairs, collecting trash and carrying boxes out of harm’s way. Teresa provided weather reports, running upstairs to look out the window and tell us if it was still raining, then checking the radar on her iPad and the weather station in the kitchen. According to our rain gauge, our backyard got 3.5 inches of rain in the 24 hours leading up to the flood.

Then she got a speaker to hook up to the iPad to play music for us.

The water stopped rising, calf-deep, still several inches from the water heater. When we were sure it had stopped coming in, we took the standpipes out of the drains and watched it slowly fall again, cheering when the suction was strong enough to pull the water into a vortex.

It took an hour or so for it to drain away, a time Frank called the most boring tornado movie ever. There was time to be grateful that it wasn’t worse; in years past, water in the basement was a far more regular occurrence. Between work on the house, city work on the storm sewer and the opening of the most recent phase of the Deep Tunnel, watching the water rise has become far more infrequent, and the level of the water has been lower.

We were grateful, too, that everyone was home and everyone helped. We were, truly, all in it together.


  • family life