The past few months have marked many milestones for my youngest child, Megan: prom, high school graduation and leaving the nest to attend university. (Read my article Old School in Hamilton’s North End Breezes if you haven’t already.) Also included on the list was her very first visit to Pelee Island with a group of friends, without watchful parents in tow!
“Can I take some friends to Pelee?” She’d been asking constantly in the months leading up to summer. Rob and I hesitated briefly. She was our book-smart child, straight As and good at following instructions, but could she put out a fire or unclog a toilet? Could she handle the unexpected? We quickly came to the realization that we couldn’t deny her the privilege we had extended to her older brother, even though Harrison had more hands on life skills and street smarts under pressure. She was old enough, responsible and a good kid. She had worked so hard at school. We wanted her to have this time between high school and university to make those memories with friends who would soon all be parting ways and heading off in various directions. So we sent the group of them off, Megan with her list of do’s and don’ts, most dealing with the mechanics of our old schoolhouse rather than any behavioural issues.
“Okay, so are you clear on what needs doing when you leave the cottage and close up?” we had drilled her prior to leaving.
“I think so.” she had responded.
Days passed with only a few text messages exchanged. All seemed to be going well but as she and her friends got ready to vacate the old schoolhouse she called for some clarification with regards to deciphering the markers on our electrical breaker panel.
“Leave on the breakers marked with green tape.” I instructed her.
“Okay, got it!” came her confident response. Later that day, she arrived home, tired but content.
A few hot weeks passed between Megan’s visit to the Island and our next. With busy summer schedules, Rob and I finally got a chance to escape to Pelee and boarded a late Sunday night ferry. We arrived in the dark, the flashlights on our phones leading us up the schoolhouse steps and into the house. While Rob fumbled in the dark with the breaker panel in the mudroom, I opened the main door into our open concept living space and was promptly hit in the face with the pungent smell of rot.
“WHAT’S THAT SMELL?!” my brain tried quickly to compute. I lifted the lid of the garbage can as I passed it knowing full well the offensive odor was far too great to simply be some leftover garbage in a trash bin. My nose pulled me forward, towards the fridge, where I knew I would find the smelly culprit. Rob entered the room just as I opened the freezer door.
“SHE TURNED OFF THE MAIN POWER BREAKER!” we both realized at the same time.
The next hour was spent cleaning out rotting meat, sour milk, melted butter and contaminated condiments. Rob and I took turns holding open trash bags and gagging. We barely spoke. Doing so would have meant sucking in more of the putrid air. Finally cleaned out, Rob triple bagged the offensive mess and threw it outside. Glad to have it out of the house, I thought only briefly of the coyotes and turkey vultures that lived in the surrounding forest. I needn’t have worried though, as the food was spoiled beyond what any healthy turkey vulture would have found acceptable! Some bleach, baking soda and coffee grinds did much to mask any lingering odor before Rob and I could finally lay our heads down that night.
The next morning we took a trip to the dump to deposit the decomposing remains of our refrigerator. We handed the heavy bag over to Mack who was working that day. We felt somewhat shifty and a little guilty. We thought the smell was suspicious and were afraid we’d be suspected of disposing of a dead body. But he didn’t flinch as he weighed our garbage and flung the bag down the chute and into the bin. Stinky mess dealt with, Rob and I were finally able to relax and enjoy the rest of our getaway.
We didn’t even mention the smelly disaster to Megan until we got home a few days later. By that time, we were able to laugh about it with her. Turns out, we had no green tape on the main power breaker. The fact that it was twice the size of the other breakers and said “MAIN” did not register with her, and since there was no green tape on it, our dear daughter, always good at following exact instructions, turned it off. Oh well, lesson learned. We know she won’t make that mistake again and neither will we.