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Luskin: A Plumbing Catastrophe

11/24/09 5:55PM By Deborah Luskin
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(HOST) This Friday, people around the country are invited to participate in the second annual National Day of Listening. As part of that effort, commentator Deborah Luskin has a favorite family story involving a Thanksgiving challenge and an outhouse.

(LUSKIN) This is a story I've told so often that now my kids are telling it, and they weren't even there.  It's about the first time I joined my husband's family for Thanksgiving, which inn his family, is a Big Deal.  For years, people from all over the world were invited-and came-to my father-in-law's in Enfield, New Hampshire.  It's a large house with little heat and no plumbing. Nevertheless, up to thirty people would show up, stay over, and help out.  So imagine my anxiety when it turned out that the first time I was to attend one of these family extravaganzas, I also the host.
At the time, Tim and I were living in a tiny, antique cape with one indoor toilet. I feared that our single flusher and septic tank of unknown capacity wouldn't be able to accommodate so many revelers over the course of four days. I also knew there was a tradition of building projects at these Thanksgiving feasts, so I decided this holiday weekend we'd construct a privy out by our pig pen.
Tim drew up plans and laid in building supplies; I provisioned the larder with enough food to keep the work crew, kibitzers and hangers on fed.  About twenty people showed up.  I greeted them all warmly, assigned them floor space for their sleeping bags, and explained the plumbing situation.
Some guests, like my future sister-in-law, thought our central heat and indoor fixture were a great improvement over the Enfield house.  Everyone dug in as it were with enthusiasm, and the privy was operational before the Thanksgiving turkey was cooked.  I encouraged all who would to use it, and instituted a flush-only-as-needed policy indoors.
It turned out my foreboding about a plumbing catastrophe was warranted.  We'd made a mountainous pile of pots and pans to wash, and clean-up was about to begin when the drain pipe under the sink burst. Undaunted, we moved the dish washing detail from the sink to the bathtub, and diverted all other traffic for the spanking new facility out-of-doors.


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