Reopening the LBI House With Fanfare and Trepidation
Remember that Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”? It was running through my mind like a broken record since we pulled onto the Garden State Parkway. We were on our way to LBI at the crack of dawn on what promised to be a dank and rainy spring day. It was House Opening Day Yet to Come, and while part of me felt like a kid on Christmas morning, the other part felt like Ebenezer Scrooge with memories of Opening Days Past.
I thought back to the year we walked through the front door to find the ceiling lying comfortably on the couch. That was not a good omen of things to come. Our top priority quickly became getting the inside of the house in livable condition before Memorial Day weekend. Plans for a much-needed new deck were pushed to the back burner. We plan, God laughs.
In our wildest dreams we could never have imagined what was in store for us on yet another Opening Day. It was a day like all other Openers. We walked around, looking for leaks or damage. Everything seemed in order until I turned on the kitchen light and watched as the bulb got brighter and whiter. I called to my husband, “Hey, look at how bright that light is. It’s beautiful the way it’s pulsating. Come and …” I was interrupted by a “POP!” The bulb exploded like an overinflated balloon.
Running into the kitchen with the speed of a 6-year-old, my husband yelled, “Power surge! Pull the plugs!”
That was the year we lost two televisions, the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and microwave. I’ll stop at that and say that if it had a plug and was connected to the wall, it was gone. No new deck that year. The deck would have to settle for a lick and a promise.
Enough said about Opening Days Past. Today was Opening Day Present.
We pulled up to the house and inspected the outside. A few shingles and some siding were missing, but that comes with the territory. The rusting storm door stood agape, silently beckoning us to step into the unknown.
As we approached the deck, I wondered if Opening Day Yet to Come would be the year of the new deck.
We walked through the storm door, unlocked the front door and looked around before unloading the car. The house felt like Grant’s tomb, but otherwise everything seemed to be in order. Now for the moment of truth. Cautiously, I turned on the light switch and magically there were no explosions. That was a good omen. My husband rolled up his sleeves like a magician about to pull a rabbit out of a hat and walked slowly to the water meter. I stood nearby with a pot in each hand and several beach towels tossed over my shoulder. He turned some faucets, threw a few switches and, voilà, the water show began like a mini Niagara Falls. I threw the towels on the floor, handed him the pots and stepped aside.
As I turned the heat on to get the chill out, a roar that sounded like a freight train went through the house followed by a hissing sound. Then the air conditioning unit began blowing like it never did last summer. Well, at least that was working.
Checking the rest of the house, I decided to turn on the clothes dryer, knowing I would need it later to dry those towels on the kitchen floor. When I turned the dial, it came off in my hand. The filter was dry and rusted, and before I could turn the dryer off, lint started flying around the room like last year’s snow. One swift kick and it automatically turned off.
Returning to the kitchen, I heard my husband having a long talk with the plumber’s answering machine. He hung up and mumbled something under his breath before burying his head back under the kitchen sink. Within minutes the telephone rang. He stuck his head out and ordered, “If it’s the plumber, tell him to get here as soon as he can. Tell him the lights are off on the Boulevard. Tell him anything. Beg if you have to. Just get him here.”
I picked up the telephone and, after a short conversation, hung up. The voice from under the sink frantically asked, “Was it the plumber? Is he coming?”
“No,” I replied. “It was my sister. She says she’s jealous because we’re at the beach. She said not to have any fun without her.”
Helen Fadini lives in Washington Township, N.J., and Beach Haven.