By Julie Kirtz Garrett
It started as a thin line in the ceiling above the second floor landing.
"Maybe it's a spider web or a little chipped paint," I rationalized.
My three kids, husband and I walked under the crack countless times each day. But I ignored it because I couldn't face another home-repair project. And I became bitter. We live in an old and very needy house. I did not marry Mr. Fix-It. So this time, I decided to borrow my husband's usually irritating laissez-faire attitude about home maintenance. It was petty -- I know.
Naturally the crack grew, and so did my resentment. "Why can't he deal with this," I thought. "Why can't he call the repairman this time."
In the spring, the crack spread out like varicose veins. By summer, one of the lines turned into a small gap above the entrance to my 7-year-old's bedroom. I took no action. I let it build. Then, my husband finally called a contractor, but the guy canceled four different appointments.
Which brings me to 7:15 one Monday morning. That's when it all came crashing down -- the ceiling and my pettiness. A sickening, plaster-smashing whoosh woke us all. A huge section of the ceiling collapsed to the floor in one smelly cloud of plaster and dust.
The kids rushed to their bedroom doors. I sat up in bed and froze, instantly realizing one of them could have been underneath. My husband, sensing my rare paraysis, jumped into action. "It's all OK. No one is hurt," he reassured the kids. "The chandelier isn't even damaged."
He immediately hauled a trash bag and vacuum up the stairs and started cleaning up. He even called a different contractor before leaving for work.
The kids and I spent that day at home. A summer thunderstorm kept us inside: no complaints. We felt safe, lucky and grateful not to have stitches on top of our heads.
I know we should have fixed the ceiling sooner. I should have skipped the martyr-mom routine. But as it turns out, the smashing plaster exposed more than bare wood ceiling slats. As a couple and as parents, we have more than a few cracks by now, but together we're still solid.
Julie Kirtz Garrett is a writer and television reporter. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and three children.