I could have hired someone to do it, but I didn’t.
Instead, I sat in the grass, phone in hand, a wrench by my feet. I was determined. It was me against a leaky outdoor faucet. But I was armed with a secret weapon.
When I got divorced, I wanted to keep things as consistent as I could for my children. And part of that meant keeping them in the only home they had ever known. I was so focused on buying the house, on the negotiations, the paperwork, and the loans, though, that I overlooked the part about what it would actually mean to live in and maintain an almost 100-year-old home on my own.
I consider myself a pretty self-sufficient girl, but the truth was that I had lived with my parents until I went off to college, then I lived in apartments. If something broke, we called the landlord and it was (eventually) fixed. When I bought my first house, this house, I had a husband who took care of the things that broke, whether that meant doing it himself or coordinating a professional to handle it. Bob Vila, I was not.
The flurry of paperwork ended. Spring came and I signed my name over and over in my lawyer’s office. I had done it. I was now the sole owner of the old house that I loved, that my children loved.
As the weather turned nicer, I knew my kids were going to want their wading pool and water balloons filled. There was just one problem: our only outside faucet had such a persistent leak that the water had been turned off in the cellar the fall before. It had to be fixed.
“Just call a plumber,” my well-meaning father kept saying. A plumber? That seemed a little excessive for a dripping faucet. I was not looking for a repeat of a few weeks before, when I had paid an electrician $150 to flip a fuse switch.
So, I did what my kids do when they want to learn something. (Or, let’s be honest here, when they want to watch other kids play with toys.) I went to You Tube. If there were videos that showed you how to open a blind bag, surely there were videos to show you how to fix a leaky faucet.
And that’s how I found myself one afternoon sitting in the grass, phone propped up on flagstone, determined to make a faucet work. I didn’t need a husband; I had a whole army of helpful men and women right at my fingertips. And if one wasn’t explaining things in a way that made sense to me, there was no argument. No frustration over whose “way” was best. I just clicked to the next video until I found someone I wanted to listen to. Why had I not thought of this before?
It took me a while to find a video that had the same faucet as I had. I also didn’t have many tools; just one very old wrench, found buried in the back of a cabinet, that I’m pretty sure we had used to stir a can of paint or something. But the man in the video never lost patience. He paused when I needed him to. He repeated himself when I needed to hear something again. He would get louder and softer anytime I asked. It was the perfect relationship.
I eventually got the faucet apart. And just like my YouTube partner suggested, I took the rusty piece to a plumbing supply store to get the right parts. Not Home Depot or Lowes, but a real plumbing supply store like the professionals used. (In all fairness, I did have to Google where one was.)
And once there, I was struck by something I had learned often in my divorce: there are so many people ready to help you, ready to support you, if you just ask. Within just a few minutes of walking in the door, I had three guys helping me, asking me to describe what kind of pipes I had, and trying out different washers on my rusty, old faucet. One man, a plumber, even gave me his number and told me to call him if I got in over my head. It was a nice offer, but YouTube and I had it covered.
That afternoon, I turned the wrench one last time, went down into my basement, turned the main water line on and then ran back out to the faucet. I held my breath. This was it. Was it going to work? I grasped the handle and tuned. Water ran. And it stopped completely when I turned the handle back. I screamed so loud that the elderly, Italian man across the street stopped watering his flowers and stared.
I had done it. This was so much more than water. We were going to be all right. This single mom was going to be able to take care of this house all by herself.
That faucet was just the start of my YouTube relationship. Since then, I have used it to assemble a gas grill, install storm doors, thaw frozen pipes, fix broken windows, install air conditioners, and use a variety of new-to-me tools; all things I never would have thought I could have done on my own. Now, in addition to friends and family, I have yet another form of “Single Mom Support”: YouTube.
Don’t get me wrong, it would be incredibly nice to have someone in my life who could do these things for me. And I am certainly not saying there aren’t times when it is best to call in a professional. But had I not gotten divorced, I never would have learned that I am capable of doing so much more than I thought I could. I might have missed the rush of doing something outside my comfort zone and getting it right.
And until the day comes when I’m not the one only responsible for taking care of my home, I know I can turn to YouTube for more than just “Ryan’s Toy Review”.