But the asterisk denotes that we are acutely aware of the grieving that is going on inside. Sure, we are doing our utmost to stay busy, explore new things together, and even have as much fun as possible, but we know that Gladys is dealing with some really difficult emotions. I still cannot imagine what she must be going through inside, after being completely uprooted from the only life she has known, and placed in the care of 5 complete strangers. We hurt right along with you, little one.
Today had many milestones and memorable experiences, but for me, the day started a little bit earlier than our typical Garden Hotel itinerary. Remember Gladys' Gotcha Day outfit? The one she insists on wearing every day, despite the very warm temperatures and myriad of other choices? Well, this very significantly represents Gladdie's last connection to her foster family, particularly her foster mom, so we are honoring it and doing all we can to make sure she can do this as long as she needs to. Thankfully we have a washer/drier combo unit in our apartments. A Siemens WD-14H468-TI to be exact. I now know it well. Let me tell you why.
Amy has been laundering the Gotcha Day outfit, so that at least it is clean each day. The catch is that we have to wait until this little one goes to bed, before we can secretly put them in the wash. This night, I insisted Amy go to bed, and that I'd take the outfit out and hang it up when the cycle completed. The "dryer" is only a dryer in the academic sense, it tumbles & heats up the freshly washed garments. The final drying process is hanging them up, so they are as dry as possible (still not totally dry) by morning.
So I set my alarm for 2 hours, the length of the wash/dry cycle, and dozed off listening to a little Brock & Salk (Seattle Sports Radio) podcast. The Mariners are in 1st place & the NFL Draft is tomorrow! BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, my phone alarm woke me up at approximately 1:30AM. I drifted into the kitchen (that's where the washer/dryer is) and tried to open the door. No luck. I pushed the "pause" button and tried again. Nope. Hmmmm. So I grabbed the user's manual, which fortunately had a few pages in English. "Wait 5 minutes after drying cycle to open door...." Oh cool, I just need to wait 5 minutes. So I wait longer than 5 minutes and try again. Nope. I'm starting to get frustrated. Maybe I interrupted the cool down process by pausing the unit initially? OK, no problem. I'll run another cycle & let it finish completely.
So, I set the alarm on my phone for 2 more hours and doze off listening to Brock Huard talking about who the Seahawks will draft. 4:00AM: BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. Here we go again. Try the door again, NOPE. OK I'm starting to panic a bit. What is wrong with this door? I fire up the VPN on my phone and Google "Siemens WD-14H468-TI door stuck." Oh my, lots of similar experiences, most of which ended with a repairman being involved. No way! This won't work for me! So I looked up every trick I could find, including using a string (I took out my shoe lace from one of my shoes) to thread into the door and trip the latch. Close, but NOPE. Then I read more... "unplug the unit & try the emergency release." This HAS to do it! I close the kitchen door, because I know this is going to be noisy, and shimmy the unit out of the cubby space. I unplugged it and gave the emergency release a tug. NOPE. I couldn't grab the plastic tab too well with my fingers, so I found the closest thing to a pair of pliers I could find, scissors... NOPE.
By now I was nearly in tears. I desperately tried to pry/pick the door with a butter knife, yeah, a butter knife at 4:45 AM. This was my newest daughter's one remaining connection to her past, the only thing she could cling to, while trying bravely to move forward with her new family. Although exhausted and scared, I was NOT going to be denied. I re-laced my shoe, shoved the unit back in place, and made my way to the front desk to see if I could get a pair of pliers. I was convinced if I tugged on that release hard enough it would work.
5AM: I find a manager and he was very helpful, despite telling me that the washer/dryer was for "long term guests only." He returns to the room with me, and uses his flashlight to make his way to the kitchen. I had closed the bedroom door so as not to startle the girls. He tries all the things I desperately tried hours before but I humored him. He calls on his phone and soon after that another man arrived, but he looked more equipped to handle the problem. The original guy dismisses himself and there we are, the Chinese maintenance man, and me, at 5AM. He tries all the things I did, including reading to me "wait 5 minutes after cycle," to which I patiently (I think) reply, "yes, I did that," He then suggests we run a quick wash cycle, 15 minutes. So we both check our phones for Instagram and WeChat updates... 5:16AM he tries again, NOPE. Then he tries the red emergency release with his leatherman, which I was tempted to grab from him and try it myself. But NOPE.
At the risk of turning this post into a novella, I'll fast forward to him saying "I'm sorry, we will have repairman come tomorrow (later today he meant). So I usher him out the door quietly, and he says one more time "I sorry" like he knows the look of a desperate father! Anyway after he leaves, I wake Amy to get another opinion before destroying this washer/dryer. She tries a few things and after I confirm this is a 5 alarm emergency, I start getting aggressive with the door. I pried hard enough to actually see the mechanism (that I later would learn was BROKEN!) and just as I was trying to jimmie it open, the handle actually popped off, broken. I. Didn't. Care. There in all its glory was the metal release for the latch. I moved it and BOOM the door opened. Finally. I could also see the reason it wasn't working in the first place... a broken plastic tab. Ugh. Oh well, victory was mine!
I spent the next 30 minutes supervising a mounted hair drier blowing hot air into the top of Gladdie's pants. I've never been happier to blow dry pants... seriously. I felt like such a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. Gladdie would be able to wear her outfit again, and it would give her at least a little comfort. We could now begin the day. See Part 2 in next post. :-)