Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rescued and Rerun: Green Acres Redux

Late July 2003: Without much of a plan, our family packed up and moved from just down the road from O'Hare Airport, Illinois to Georgia. The household goods were packed on a truck and sent south to a smallish town outside of Atlanta. I'd found this town in a book called The 100 Best Small Towns in America. Nate played one last baseball game and then we climbed into our two vehicles, loaded to the roofs with the remaining family possessions, and followed the truck south.

When we arrived, I phoned some real estate "flippers" who had homes for lease purchase. We toured three and chose the third. Paperwork was done, money changed hands, the truck was diverted to a smaller town way outside the smallish town, household goods and furnishings were unpacked and placed. We were ready for our new lives to begin. We may have just voluntarily uprooted ourselves from the Midwest, but we took the large oak next to our new home as a good sign. Things could root here - including us. (Note, or not.)

As it turned out, though, there were differences between our new location and the place we'd left behind. No matter, we were highly flexible people and would adjust. So what if there was no trash pick-up, no cable, and the nearest gas station was seven miles away. (Long-time readers of my old blogs know the folly of that thinking!)

Where We Learn That Overnight Is Too Long and I'm a Blaming Shrew
Trash piled up. Lots of McDonalds throwaways (the Realtor who sold our house in Illinois presented us with $50 worth of Ronald McDonald money which came in handy as we traveled south and got settled in), random other garbage, the usual. The bags piled up. MathMan set about finding out where we could dump the stuff. He finally found the place and we loaded the many bags into the minivan. We drove to the recycling center/dump only to find out that it was closed on Wednesdays. No matter, I would go back the next day. MathMan had to report to school for his first day. We decided to leave the trash in the van overnight instead of unloading and reloading it. It was really hot even at night so we left the van windows rolled down and pretty much forgot about it.

The next day, MathMan headed off to his new school. Chloe had flown back to Chicago to participate in some ballet thingy. Nathan, Sophia and I climbed into the van to haul the trash to the dump. The van was so full of trash bags that Mother of the Year strapped both kids (then 7 and 4) into the front passenger's seat and set off hoping not to pass any police officers on the way.

We arrived at the dump and I began unloading the trash bags. Nathan was turned around in his seat watching because this was a whole new adventure. Watching me schlep trashcans to the curb in Illinois was never this much fun. Shoot - I even had to show my ID before the dump manager would let me drop my stuff. County residents only and I still had Illinois plates on the van.

At just about the same time, Nate and I noticed that something was odd. "I don't remember having rice!" he shouted to me. Shouting was his normal voice back then.

"Me either," I replied puzzled.

Then the rice moved.

The term heebie-jeebies doesn't begin to describe the sickening feeling spreading through my body as I unloaded those squirming maggot-infested black bags. My flesh crawled like so many writhing, moist, white ickies. I held my breath as I finished the task. Inside my oxygen-deprived brain, I cursed MathMan. This had to be his fault. How could he have been so stupid to leave rotting trash with swarming flies in my van overnight in hot, humid weather? What a moron!

That's right - that's how it works. The night before, I could have thought 'hot night, rotting garbage, flies, enclosed van equals recipe for high-quantity maggot production.' But it's just so much more convenient to blame MathMan when something goes wrong. Besides, that sentence had an equals in it and he's the math guy. I'm language, he's math. He should have foreseen some formula for this.

Nathan noticed that the rice was moving and began to pepper me with questions. "What is that?" "How did they get here?" "What will they do?" "Are there more?" "Wow! That's a lot!"

I tried to answer him while I struggled not to throw up at the sight of the maggots still clinging to the van's carpet. What was I going to do?

Foam Carpet Potion, A Vacuum Cleaner, and Girl Fingers
After the kids and I got back to the house, I backed the van up to the garage door and popped the backdoor. The two of them hopped out and raced to the back to get a better look at the writhing carpet. I leaned down to take a closer look and nearly screamed as a shiny, white maggot burrowed up through the carpet. Every where I looked, the little bastards were erupting through the taupe carpet like oozing, white-hot volcanoes.

Nate and Sophia were all whipped up. They'd never seen anything like this. Back in civilization, the trash was gathered by massive trucks who ate it, gave a big diesel belch and then moved on to the neighbor's house. They were unaware of things like maggots and the havoc that fly populations could cause.

Near panic, I was trying to figure out what to do. I was reminded of another panicked moment when my brother battled insects with WD40 and a fire extinguisher. I paced around the newly-organized garage and found some foam carpet cleaner. I grabbed it and the vacuum cleaner and got to work. I enlisted the help of Nathan who held the vacuum hose as I identified erupting maggots. I'd point to one and he'd attack it with the blunt end of the vacuum hose. Sophia alternated between helping identify the little buggers and keeping the vacuum cleaner from tipping over. As Nate continued to wield the vacuum with his sister's help, I started plucking the damn things from the carpet and wiping them on a paper towel. It is still one of the most disgusting things I've ever done. Thinking it looked like fun, Sophia started plucking maggots with her bare fingers. This should not have surprised me. This was the same little girl who, two years earlier while playing around while I dug an edge on a flowerbed, plucked a nightcrawler from the freshly turned earth, gave it a lick an then held it out to me. "It's good, yeah? Good. Want some?"

After we noticed no more maggots coming up through the carpet, I sprayed the whole back of the van with the foam cleaner, hoping to both clean the carpet and smother any remaining nasties. A little later, I dabbed at the fading foam and vacuumed the whole van again. The whole episode took about three hours. Finally satisfied that the maggots were gone, I inspected the van once more, plucked a couple more carcasses from the floor and put the middle and back van seats in place for a trip to town. I wasn't going to rest until I'd thoroughly cleaned the carpet with an industrial strength commercial vacuum and scrubber.

Where The Kids Learn I'm Not Particularly Mechanically Inclined
I put the Sophia's booster seat in the van's middle bench seat and loaded both children into the van. Properly strapped into the newly cleaned van, they chatted happily about the whole adventure. I was driving along, glad to have had a hot shower and looking forward to thoroughly cleaning the van one more time. We came to the corner of Old Alabama and Covered Bridge Roads which is on a small incline. I stopped and looked both ways. There was a big truck coming on the left, but I'd have time to make it if I accelerated vigorously. As I did, the children discovered that I didn't really know how to properly install the van seats.

Hearing screams, I looked in the rearview mirror. Their feet were in the air! The seat had tipped backward at a ninety-degree angle and they just hung there suspended for what seemed like an eternity. In slow-motion, the seat came back forward until it rested in place again. The screams subsided. Nate laughed nervously. Sophia started to cry. I tried to make light of it. "Wow! Wasn't that something?"

Such a lasting memory. Just the other day, I heard Nate say something to Sophia about the time I nearly killed them by not putting the van seat in correctly. "Yeah," Sophia answered. "those were the days....."


  1. That early experience with maggotry obviously provided you the expertise needed to provide lucid political observations. As for the van seat debacle, I've found it critical to parenting to leave the kids unsure whether my decisions were errors or deliberate attempts on their lives.

    It makes them think twice before breaching any rule and remains insufficient evidence for them to gain a Child Protective Services intervention. Of course, a well-delivered mwahahaa is the appropriate flourish to end such adventures with.

  2. ROTFL, and yes, eeewwww...MAGGOTS!

    I can just see you with the spray foam trying to eradicate the little devils.

    There is no garbage collection up at our cabin in the Adirondacks - and we haven't gotten around to getting our stickers for our garbage bags so we can take garbage to the dump. So we bring it home with us and put it out on the curb for the New Jersey garbage men to pick up.

    Note to self: NEVER leave garbage in Jeep overnight in hot weather!

  3. If you meant this to be a scary Halloween story, you succeeded.

  4. I wonder if our reaction would be different it they were known as "Wiggles" instead of "Maggots"?

    Then again, drill sergeants wouldn't be yelling, "All right you wiggles!"

  5. That's a hoot! UP on the tundra there isn't garbage pickup in the country and we wouldn't pay for it if there was. We separate stuff, most food stuff into compost, burnable stuff gets burned in the burn barrel and the tin cans and bottles get rinsed or washed and eventually put in specially marked garbage bags that cost about $2 a pop and taken to the dumpster.

    The van seats gave the kids an "E ticket ride"!!

  6. Good lord, Lisa. Now I have the creepy crawlies. You do know how to evoke emotion in your readers.

  7. Everyone else has visions of maggots crawling in their beds, I've got the Green Acres theme song bouncing in my skull. Now that's scary.

  8. Lisa, I really wish I wouldn't have read the lovely maggot story while I was eating my lunch--ewwww! :) That's pretty gross. Nice job on not vomiting--I totally would have.

    Also, nice job on almost killing your kids...just kidding! *smiles*

  9. I would have screamed, run into the house and waited for Mathman to come home.

  10. eeewww!

    so why did you move away and go down to Georgia of all places?

  11. Southern living isn't for the weak of heart or stomach . . . Been there, done that, been glad for ten years to have returned to civilization.

  12. eww eww eww eww eww...I have a particular horror of maggots. Eww.

  13. Ah, memories. Nate and Sophia will always remember that day. And will always remind you of it.

    I haven't had a run in with maggots, but my brother and sister-in-law discovered the hard way that you really need to remove all parts of the cappuccino machine to thoroughly clean it. Glad I wasn't there when they discovered the maggots cavorting in hidden globs of milk. I would have thrown up.

  14. Plug yer nose, the first part reminds me of when my little boy couldn't find his new kitten and two weeks later began to complain about something stinking in his room. After some nasal investigation, I found the little bugger. deader than a door nail, behind his desk, trapped against the wall. I moved the desk and the poor little bugger fell down and started moving!!

    Oh yeah, full of maggots.
    After I got done puking I went and got a shovel and a garbage bag.

    Ya gotta love it.

    Thanks for the memories.


  15. Wow, what a great Halloween story and a true horror show. You really know how to tell them, don't you?

  16. What a great story! Albeit one I probably shouldn't have been reading while I was eating.

  17. Just the other day I could be heard saying, "I miss big trash day." Now we have to deal with "dump runs," so we've got quite the assortment of washers, dryers and the like waiting for that mythic event.

    I'll see your van seat and raise you not seat belting in the car seat, which Mr. Bee and I each did once in the days when we used to switch car seats back and forth between cars. P had a bump on his head that I felt awful about for some time and I am just thankful it wasn't worse. not sure if I'd rather he remembered it or not. Granted he's be bitter, but as it stands that shit's there in his subconscious and I'm just hoping it doesn't come to the surface when he's deciding whether or not I have to live in a nursing home one day.

    P.S.- I love that pic of Nate and Sophie.

  18. OMG you have me hurting from the laughter. It's always amazing to me that the kids always remember the times we tried to kill them and not ALL the other happy memories. DUH!?!?

  19. Yup - back before we knew how to be perfect parents... Right there next to the day we were finally all grown up and adult and would never again make childish mistakes or be unsure of ourselves... And the day we finally knew exactly what our lives were for...

    Still waiting...

  20. That may be the grossest maggot story I've ever heard.

  21. I am so late in reading this...........and there should have been a damn do not read if you want to eat today..........or maybe you are thinking of me and my need to lose some weight and this is certainly one way for me to not want to eat again..............well not for a while!!!
    I wholly admit that I'm far enough from big city life here, where I'm just 2 miles from a grocery and gas station and the garbage men come weekly..........and haul off our maggots!!! eeeeeek!

  22. Ah, those were the days my friend, you thought they'd never end...

    So how's the book coming? I've been swallowed whole by twitter. Beware the addictive powers of 100 follower a week. It is a seductive brew.

    I did the stupidest thing. I decided to rewrite my whole book just when I thought it was finished. Now it's in tatters and I don't know where to go with it.

    I've been missing you. I saw Mathman on the twitter stream. I spoke to him and scared him away, which was not my intention. Tell him HI! for me. Next time I see him I'll use my sweet seductive voice.


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