Week Four in the Mountains: Childhood Revisited

This past week, I picked up a refill of Trotsky’s heartworm medicine. When I got home and inspected what was in the bag, I noticed there was a $12 rebate offer. I’m not one to use coupons very often because 50 cents here and there just doesn’t seem worth my time to clip and organize them. Even when they don’t have 50 exclusions on the back, like the Bed, Bath & Beyond ones do, using coupons just seems too complicated. But I do like to save money when the saved value reaches my arbitray and changeable threshold. I’m a big fan of Groupon and Living Social, and when I was living downtown, it was a rare occasion that I would go out to eat if it wasn’t happy hour. $12 is about the cost of two drinks on happy hour, so taking the time to fill out the rebate seemed worthwhile in this case.

I have near-professional rebate completion training. With one income and five children, my parents were very frugal. My mother was the avid couponer and my father handled the rebates. Being the meticulous instruction follower that I am, filling out the rebates was one of the jobs that earned me my $2/week allowance. I knew where to find the rebate forms on the wall beyond the cash registers in Ames, True Value, and Eckerd Drugs. I read carefully to determine what needed to be circled, whether the UPC code needed to be cut out of the packaging and included, and if we had to include the original receipt or a copy would suffice. These corporations we sent the rebates to were as bad as insurance companies – they were waiting for us to make the slightest wrong move so they would have a legally protected reason to not give us the money. One mishap of my pen and we’d lose all chance of getting that check for a $1.50. They didn’t really want to give back that money anyways. If they did, they would have just supplied a coupon to begin with. But then it would have been in my mother’s domain and I’d have been out of a job.

So last week, I read and reread the rebate instructions, carefully filled out the form, included an itemized invoice from my veterinarian, and applied the stamp. No licking required; this isn’t the 1980s anymore. Then, as I was sliding the documents into the envelope, I realized that the form also provided an option for filing for the rebate online. Of course it did; this isn’t the 1980s anymore! Apparently I didn’t read the form as carefully as I thought I had. My years of rigorous childhood manual labor with the pen and receipts had completely closed off my mind to the notion that the rebate game had advanced along with the rest of the world. But since the stamp was already used and the envelope addressed, it seemed silly to start over at that point and let all my training go to waste. Now I get to spend a nail-biting 4-6 weeks waiting for a paper check that I’ll have to take to a brick and mortar bank with a live human teller.

I would have received the rebate offer regardless of whether we had moved to The Sanctuary, but the experience did get me thinking about other things I haven’t done since I was a kid that I’m doing now that I’m in this house. Dealing with well water is the biggest one. We got hooked up to municipal water in my childhood house when I was in my teens and I’ve had it ever since, until now. We don’t even live on a county-maintained road, so there’s certainly no chance of having municipal water. Hence, the well. Water rights in Colorado are controversial, but before we bought the house we checked out what the permit covered and had the levels and recovery rates inspected. Colorado is a very dry state (although you wouldn’t really know it from the last few summers) and we didn’t want to end up with a house with no running water someday. Not good for the resale value. Or personal hygiene.

But even a strong well will never be the same as having municipal water.  Hot water becomes a hot commodity. Running the washing machine, taking a shower, and doing the dishes become carefully scheduled activities, especially in a household of seven. There are only two of us at The Sanctuary, so we weren’t as worried about it, but taking our first bath together in the jet tub turned out to be a rather lukewarm experience.

As we’ve always done, my partner plugged the bath drain, turned on the faucet, placed his hand under the stream, and after adjusting the water to an ideal temperature, he walked away. That’s not going to work so well here. The hot water doesn’t really last long enough to fill the tub, so, as we learned too late, we need to crank that faucet all the way to scalding, let the tub fill until the hot runs out, and then add a little cold as necessary. Or maybe we could jump back to the 1880s and boil some vats of water on the stove and dump them in. In either case, after the hot runs out, it’s out for a while. There’s no hope of the hot refreshing itself quickly enough to be able to top off that bath water and enjoy your soak. Be forewarned, future house guests!

Another water-related childhood memory that surfaced last week was that of the garden hose. We had a small tomato garden when I was very young that sometimes I would help my mother water with the long green hose that was wound around a stake that jutted out from the exterior of the house. I also used that hose to fill up my pet rabbit’s water dish. And to wash my parents’ cars – another one of my chores for which I was paid the equivalent of about 30 cents an hour. But mostly the garden hose was a toy. Before we had a swimming pool, we siblings would spray each other with it to cool down on scorching summer days. We became masters of twisting and hiding kinks in the hose until one of us had the nozzle pointed at the perfect victim, generally himself. We held our thumbs over the opening to add pressure to the spray until they turned blue from the icy underground water that had pushed out all the water warmed in the coils of the hose under the sun. Even after we got a swimming pool, we couldn’t resist the urge to torture each other with that arctic spray as we emerged from beneath the surface of the 85 degree pool water.

As I’ve been uncoiling and coiling the hoses at The Sanctuary to water the courtyard garden, I can’t help but think of these memories that were previously forgotten. I had also forgotten how heavy a hose is when it falls on your bare toe, how unwieldy it is to maneuver around corners, and how annoying those kinks can be when you aren’t creating them intentionally for an aqua attack on your unsuspecting brother.

A final throwback experience I had last week, unrelated to water, was that of creeping around a dark, underground utility room full of the dusty and rusty artifacts of someone else’s life. I loved to explore the paint cans, broken radios, cigar boxes, and forgotten Christmas ornaments of my grandparents’ basement and other storage spaces when I was a child. I’ve recently discovered that The Sanctuary offers its own spaces for eldritch explorations of the childhood kind, but you have to tune in next week to discover what those spaces have revealed.

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