Monday, November 22, 2010

Most important parenting tip of all time

So today I decided was THE day to make sure the Christmas lights are working on the exterior of the house.  Not the week before the foot-o-snow or the freezing rain.  Today, after aforementioned snow and rain.  I won't expand much here about why the Christmas lights are already hanging on the house and simply need to be checked instead of hung, or why they've actually been hanging for 7 years solid and have never come down.  I'll just say that I've convinced myself that they are Not That Noticeable for the 11 months that they never turn on.  Don't judge me.  So anyway, today was the day to check them.  I could've checked them in July, mind you.

Starting with the south driveway side of the house, yep - everything works.  Check.

On to the front eave, plugged into a dizzying array of extension cords winding to the back yard.  Yep.  Check.

Two for three.  Now, the difficult one, the top peak over the kitchen/dining room.  Highest point.   Ladder.  Ice.  Hmm.  Here's a snowy patch to secure the ladder.  Ah, good.  No problem.  Up we go!

Lights meet plug and.....nothing.  Jiggle and shake them, that always works and please please please please....nothing.  Unplug and replug and please please please please....Nothing.   Close your eyes and make a wish while squeeeeeeezing the plug and the lights together......................nothing.  Broken.  Lights bleepity bleeping broken.   Crap. 

But, wait!  Being a genius of sorts, I purchased replacement lights last January on uberclearance at Target, for exactly this scenario.   And, even more genius-like, I remembered a year later that I had bought them!  Up we go with replacement lights.  What I forgot, having only hung the lights one time 7 years ago, was how precarious it was to hang them on this, the highest point.  I know why I hung them in dry weather the first time: it was a  full body stretch from the top of the ladder.   My mind wandered to my life insurance policy (Did I pay that last premium? How much will she get again? I'm sure she'll meet a nice fella.  Sure will be nice for her to have this mortgage paid off) as I scaled the fully extended ladder.  One hook......two hooks.  I was doing fine, but sweating through my hoodie.  I flung my knit hat (a bit of ominous foreshadow:  the hat was one I received years ago gratis from a cemetery vault company called Weiser Doric - no kidding) to the ground and shimmied from the ladder onto the roof over the front entry.  I crawled trepidaciously (it's a word) to the peak, stretching the lights along the upper eave with utmost care and precision.  After connecting them to the draped power cord and sighing relief when they blinked on (succcessss!!!!), I looked down from the peak to the ladder rested against the first shingle, 8 miles below. 

Ok, not quite 8 miles.  Deep breath.  Almost done, although what I remembered now that I was at the top is that going UP a ladder and scaling UP a roof in the snow/ice/wet is the easy part, going down is the challenge.  Ah, unless of course you simply slide.

I wasn't planning on sliding, mind you, but slide I did.  I'm not proud of the language my mouth created without my mind's consent as I careened towards certain death.   The words flowed freely as my hands grasped at anything they could find.  They only found snow.  My slide was probably only six or seven feet, but wow does it seem to take a long time when you're trying not to do it.  Besides screaming profanity, I also thought of lots of things in those few seconds - how I was going to need an ambulance mostly.  Also, wondering if the front door was unlocked or would I have to go around through the garage to get to a phone, dragging my broken limbs behind me.  And, are the neighbors home, I wonder?  It is Monday morning after all, most of the world works for a living, buster.  Did I turn off the oven after making eggs?  Wouldn't want the house to burn, now that all the lights are working.  Was I supposed to pick up the Boy from school today?  Hope not.  I wonder what he's learning about.  Thanksgiving most likely.  Pre-schoolers always learn about Thanksgiving during the short week where the teachers are all giddy about their annual copy/paste lesson plans.  What are you thankful for, young angel?  My mom and my dad and my toys and my room and my birthday and cake and candy and my mom summore.  And after naptime he'll trace his hand and add googly eyeballs to his thumb, and then paint the fingers lots of colors and a gobble down the front out of red pipecleaners, and they'll call this atrocity a turkey, adding pencilstick legs to the bottom for him because he's four, and he'll want to hang it on the fridge I'm sure, next to the sunflower seed factory drawing.  Thoughts like these.

 If only he knew that his dad's last seconds on Earth were spent whooshing over the top of that fridge.  Although, if I do survive, he'll probably want to write his name on my leg casts, so I need to make sure to get a white one and not one of those fancy colored ones.   

Miraculously, my $2 garage-sale boots caught the lip of the ladder and the rain channel, bringing me to a quick halt before I plummeted to the front sidewalk.  Narrowly escaping becoming a chalk outline, I climbed down face-out from the house, not wanting to bother with the logistics of how to turn around.  And, being a completely normal person, I immediately put on the pretense of doing  the whole show on purpose. 

So, my parenting tip for today:  the absolutely most important part of being a good parent is staying alive.  The rest is just details.  Enjoy your turkey. (both on the fridge and in it)

And, for heaven's sake, please hang (or check) your Christmas lights in September.


  1. Your quite an accomplished writer Mike. I was swept up into the moment, my heart racing to the conclusion of your ordeal. I was with you in spirit, even if after the event.

    Blessings to you all this Thanks Giving season!

    Kathleen Wichterman

  2. Thanks Kathy! Best to you and all your boys Miss you guys! :-)