After the Water
—an essay by Sarah Newton

Dad? What’s that sound? Shhhhhhhh. The sound of a disaster. The sound of a burst pipe. The sound of water flooding out from beneath the kitchen sink, pouring onto the kitchen floor and the carpets of the house. It was the sound of thousand of dollars of damage. It was the beginning of the end of my family.  

We were returning from our trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival: the festival we went to, to get our fill of theatre, food, hippy culture and family time. One of the few occasions when my family could be a real family, outside of the context of work and school. The trip to Ashland was one of our favorite family trips. We drove for seven hours each way, discussing the plays that we were about to see or had just seen.  

The discussions became heated as we contemplated a certain acting choice or set piece. My sister and I would reflect on why each play had been chosen for that season, believing ourselves to be far more knowledgeable about the workings of a theatre festival than we actually were.   The seven hour drives flew by. We would stop for one, maybe two breaks on the ride home before diving back into deep discussions. On this particular drive home, my dad and I rode together. We were anxious to get home and watch the Olympics, as we had missed so many of our favorite events in favor of the festival. We drove straight through. We didn’t take a single bathroom break. 

As I walked around the house my feet sunk in the puddles of water that had soaked through the carpets. I was lost for words. We had been gone just four days. And within that time, our entire house was turned upside down. The only miracle was that the water didn’t reach my room. If the water had even touched the entrance, the entire house could have burned down.   

After my mom and sister got home, Mom told us to pack up our rooms with whatever we would need for the next couple of days. We moved into a hotel to make room for the incoming occupation by insurance inspectors, industrial fans, frantic phone calls, and blazing hot temperatures. I didn’t see my Mom for an entire week, as she ran the disaster area called my house, while I stayed far away in a hotel, watching Mad Men and the Olympics.  

 When I did visit my former home, I got more than I bargained for. Plumbers, painters and insurance inspectors climbed over the industrial sized fans, attempting to survey the damage and speak to my Mom about estimates for this or that. We put a storage unit in the driveway, to prepare for the home makeover. We packed up our lives. Countless memories shoved into cardboard boxes, to go through at another time. When there was time. When we had our house back.  

 School started, and I threw myself into homework. It was a welcome break from all of the industrial fans and design plans that were being discussed over dinner. I felt like I was escaping the real world, of a destroyed home, as I walked into school. Staying late after school became a luxury. I could, temporarily, avoid the reality of my home as I studied in a corner of the library.   

Eventually my house started looking like a home again. The industrial fans were taken out. New carpets were put in. I painted my room blue. I put in a blue carpet. I put my own creative mark on my world after the disaster. I strung origami cranes on my ceiling, along with glow in the dark stars. As I drifted off to sleep, I imagined the night sky over head. A blissful fantasy compared to the reality outside of my room.

Sarah Newton is a writer/designer/actress living in New York. She writes personal essays, plays, screen plays or anything that fits her flights of fancy. She is a crochet designer with her own crochet line, Puzzled Heart Designs. Follow her everyday thoughts on her blog.