Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 29, 2003


The bluebird of happiness

I woke up late after having helped at After-Prom the night before. I could see it was going to be a perfect Mother's Day - warm and sunny with a slight breeze. The birds were singing up a storm while I made myself a cup of coffee.

"Ah, now to spend a relaxing day reading the Sunday paper and doing just what I want," I thought. I picked up the paper and settled down into my recliner.

"Gloria, come out here!" Art yelled from the back yard.

We'd been having trouble with water from the washing machine backing up into the basement drains for a couple of days. I just knew he wasn't calling me to point out what a beautiful day it was.

When I walked out on the deck, I could see - and smell - that he had taken one of the septic tank covers off.

"I need to get the other one off and this soil has so much wet clay in it I need help."

We spent the next four hours working on the other lid. Art had a theory that a soap "plug" was blocking the drain from the house to the septic tank, causing water to back up. He explained that the drain access point in the house had been covered when they put the furnace in, so it couldn't be cleared from that end.

Art used a shovel to remove the dirt while I dug in the clay with a small trowel and sometimes with my bare hands in an effort to locate the lid's edges. We were successful after an hour or so.

Then Art tried several strategies to lift the cover. First he tried a two-pipe arrangement threaded together in an "L" shape which he had used to lift the first one. When that didn't work, he tried a crowbar. Next, he tied a rope on the lid handle and looped the other end over a pipe placed on a 4 x 4 across the hole.

The cover wouldn't budge, but I could see the engineer wheels in Art's head turning.

Katie had been our go-fer during the afternoon, bringing out various tools Art requested, such as a flashlight and mirror so he could check out the situation in the part of the tank covered by the stubborn lid.

At one point, she took our picture. I was holding on to Art's shorts as he hung inside the tank with a six-foot pole trying to knock the soap clog free. Katie was laughing so hard she could hardly take the picture. She was thinking about her Dad falling in, leaving me holding his shorts!

"When the picture comes back, Mom, you could write 'Happy Mother's Day' on the back!"

Somehow it didn't seem that funny to me while leaning over a hole with "Eau de Septic Tank" wafting past our heads.

Art finally decided to call it a day. On Monday, with the help of a pry bar he bought at a hardware store, the second lid came off, and the soap blockage was located and knocked free. Once again, all was right with the world.

But Mother's Day hadn't ended so badly in spite of the work. When Art decided he wasn't going to complete the job Sunday, we began gathering up the shovels, hoes, rakes, trowels, and other assorted tools to put them back in the garage. As we returned to the back yard, a sudden motion stopped me in my tracks. A blue bird had flown from a nearby tree to the top of the long pole Art had stuck into the ground. After a day of sweaty, dirty work, it was a treat to see something so beautiful. The rusty red breast and blue head, back and wings were what identified it as an Eastern Bluebird. Even though I was tired, hungry and cranky, the bird's brief appearance perked me up.

After our hard work, Art took the girls, Mom and me out to eat. Katie entertained us all by describing in colorful terms our exciting day.

I know I'll be more likely to remember this Mother's Day than if I'd just relaxed and read the Sunday paper!


Happy Motherís Day! Eau de septic tank was my gift for the day.

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