Build me a boat that can carry two.

It was 3:15 in the morning. My 18-month-old started crying. He seemed really upset, so I got him out of bed and took him downstairs to get him a drink. While I was in the kitchen, I heard what sounded like bath water flowing in the tub in the basement. How odd. It was in the middle of the night, so I thought for just one moment that I might be imagining it. But it was real, and pretty loud. So we went down into the basement, and to my horror, I saw water rushing through the creases of a window and into my basement. The wall was already bubbling up and there was a giant puddle in the carpet under the window. I walked across the whole room to see if it had spread, and water was everywhere. So horrible!!!

We ran upstairs to wake up Joe and he got the wet vac and a pump for the window well. I actually knew exactly why the basement was flooding. It was all my fault. It played out in slow motion in my head as I ran out to the backyard with my now very wide awake child. Earlier in the day, I watered our pathetic tomato plants in our back yard. I had them in pots on the patio since they got too much water last year in the garden. This year, they weren’t getting enough. Anyway, I watered them and then I got distracted and picked some strawberries and squash, and then I remembered something I wanted to tell Joe and since there was a spray nozzle at the end of the hose, I forgot that I didn’t turn it off. The rest of the hose was coiled over the window well, and sometime that night,the hose burst. And now my baby and I were going out to turn it off at 3:20 A.M. I felt horrible. I flooded our house for the sake of my tomatoes that weren’t even giving us anything good. Our house isn’t that old and I really love our basement. And I ruined it. Would it smell like irrigation water forever now? Eventually Joe realized this job was too big for just us if we wanted to avoid getting mold, and I called Complete Restoration. They were amazing. They were there in minutes and cleaned up and cut drywall. And then they brought in the fans.

Many singer-songwriters dream of having fans. Big fans. Lots of them. Well, somehow even though I had lots of big fans in my basement, they weren’t what I had in mind. Big noisy fans blew into holes into the drywall day and night for days. It felt more like a nightmare than a dream. Truly, it all could have been much worse. None of our valuable possessions were ruined and we caught it all relatively fast. It would be covered by our insurance after we paid a deductible and everyone seemed to believe they could fix it up good as new. But right now, we still have many of the contents of our basement on our kitchen table and in our garage. We live in some minor chaos while we wait for everything to be cleaned and fixed. I was feeling really rotten about things one day, and I heard Joe talking on the phone to different family members who had heard about it, and I started to notice that when he explained what happened, he always said, “A hose was left on…” He never said, “Cherie left the hose on.” After the second or third time I overheard this, I went to him and I said, “You know, you don’t have to say that. You don’t have to pretend it might have been you or one of the kids. Just tell people I did it. I’m willing to own that. And I deserve for everyone to know I’m an idiot.” He just shook his head and said, “None of that matters and it really doesn’t change things. It doesn’t make anything better to focus on that.”

This really meant so much more to me than if he had thrown a cloak over a puddle for me to walk on in the rain. It meant more than ten dozen roses or a silly poem. He was sticking up for me when he had no obligation to do so. He was on my side even though he had a right to be mad at me. And after a day or two, I’m pretty sure he was the first person to finally make a joke about the whole thing because he has a gift for that. And we’ve managed to find a way to laugh about it at least once a day ever since. I still feel bad about everything. But I also feel amazed and grateful; overwhelmed really, for the rare and amazing gift I have of a good marriage.

I have so many friends who suffer with the pain of marital problems. I have many divorced friends. I come from a broken home. In a time when so many people cry out for marriage to be defended, I think at the core, what “saving marriage” really means to me, for starters, is understanding what a rare treasure it is when it is good. It means fixing it from the inside out if it is not. I don’t believe any of us realize on a daily basis how priceless and yet fragile happiness can be in a home. I love my home so much that it is my favorite place to be. My relationships in my home are sacred, yet they are with people who make me feel the most comfortable and who let me be myself. So much so, that I take it for granted. I forget sometimes to give the biggest portions of my patience, kindness, and time to the very people I love the most. There are some things that can’t be saved. Some people try with all their might to rescue a broken marriage and it still falls apart. And then those of us who have love and happiness in our home have no idea what a shelter we have from the storms.

My very favorite song is an old folk song called “The Water is Wide”. It has a beautiful simple melody that is so timeless. And I love the words.

The water is wide, I can’t cross o’er
And neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

There is a ship, and it sails the sea
It’s loaded deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I’m in
I know not how I sink or swim

Oh love is gentle and love is kind
The sweetest flower when first it’s new
But love grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like morning dew.

I think too much love in this world fades away like morning dew. So much so, that it could easily be drowned by irrigation water in a flooded basement. I’m grateful that the love in my home and marriage is wider than the water. I’m also grateful for God who has helped me get over so many oceans of tears. Floods too big for a vacuum or a pump. So big that all he can do is build me a boat and row with me.

I wrote my own crazy adaptation of “The Water Is Wide’ a few years ago. I guess that makes me one of the many people throughout time who has adapted the song somehow. The original writer is anonymous. I still love the original most of all. But here’s my adaptation, called, River of Tears.

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5 Responses to “Build me a boat that can carry two.”

  1. Joyce Anderson says:

    So, I totally remember singing The Water is Wide in, was it Poston or Mt View? Anyway … we sang it! Oh and your basement. I am so sorry! Our fussy baby being up late the other night helped us catch the microwave almost catching on fire. Fussy babies, what a blessing!

  2. Karolyn Pieren says:

    This post, made me cry….because it was tender and insightful…and shared what marriage is all about the kind of love we can grow old with…because it will bloom into something that overlooks, age spots, memory loss, and other little things that tend to annoy the average person, and will never fester into a coy statement so many use now ‘ I am just not happy’…the fact you were able to recognize Joe’s goodness and acknowledging that about him was his ” dozen roses” too…so see it goes both ways and that is why it works. The mommy in you rises to your responsibility, the wife in you realizes you are being cherished…and the humility you have gives credit from where your blessings flow…and somehow I sense a song of water, or blessed memories is lurking just around the corner

  3. Calli Saltmarsh says:

    Our husbands work together often, usually with NTB. Ron speaks so highly of him. I’m forwarding this on to him so he can like him even more. Sweet post.

  4. Lynette says:

    I left a hose on like that this summer too. Thankfully, we caught it before it broke. I’m so sorry about your basement. I love this post about marriage. I feel that now more than ever, marriage has to be defended and that we all need a reminder on how to treat out spouses. Thanks for this post, it was a wonderful one.

  5. Trilby says:

    Another beautiful post Cherie. I too, love ‘The Water Is Wide.’ I have all my vocal students learn it. Your adaptation of ‘River of Tears’ is one of my favorites on your GRACE album. I loved your insights on this experience and especially your declarations of love for your home, your family and your husband. That Joe sounds like a keeper.

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