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....."