Yesterday the sun was shining and it was unseasonably warm for December 12 - a perfect day to get those outdoor Christmas decorations up. I know, I know -- it's late but you see the 'Martha Stewart' of our household is overseas and does not return until Dec. 23rd. She has left very clear directives that all is to be merry and bright in and about the house when she gets home.
How difficult can this be I wondered? Years ago this was my job. I know how to do this. First task was to get the large tub of outdoor decorations down from it's home in the rafters of the garage. I was thrilled to discover that the man of house had already done this! All I had to do was get this behemoth out of the garage. It seemed much heavier to me than was expecting, but I got up over the car and out onto the driveway without incident. Untangling the mass of greenery, ribbons, pine cones and lights was a little tedious but did not damage my Christmas cheer and soon I had all three 12 foot garlands stretched out in the sun.
I stuffed the wire ties and wire cutters in my pocket, gabbed the step ladder and one garland and strode toward the front steps -- woman on a mission! I had to stop half way because I had trouble juggling the load. I left the ladder behind and hefted the garland up the slushy and snow packed stairs, my good cheer taking a few hits from the uncertain footing. Back down the slippery stairs I went to retrieve the ladder -- then up the six tenuous steps to the landing then the five more to the door. Phew! "I really should clear those steps," I thought, "but I've got to get these decorations up."
Ladder in place I surveyed the task before me. Piece of cake! I headed up the first step of the ladder, heavy garland draped over me and dragging out behind me, and my vintage internal plumbing system signalled me warmly that it was feeling stressed. SIGH!! Back down the ladder I went, back down the stairs which were now slick from the combination of my traffic and sunlight. I really must clear those steps...
Ten minutes later I was back on the ladder again. The first step was not high enough to reach the top hook over the centre of the door, so I rose up one more step. I stood there for a moment -- was this ladder always so wobbly? My feet were all of 18 inches off the deck, but of course it looked like six and half feet to me, and I needed to go up even one more step. My balloon of Christmas cheer was deflating rapidly, but I pressed on. Nothing like a few well placed expletives to raise the spirits!
My less than nimble fingers stretched out to hook the garland on the target nail. Success was in my grasp, if but only for a moment. The garland fell before I could attach it to the second nail. Back down the ladder, back up the ladder. My fingers struggled with the wire ties, aching and losing their grip at critical moments of this mission, but with the able assistance of more expletives the garland did finally get hung. One down, two to go.
I trudged back down the stairs with the step ladder, my hips protesting the whole way and working in concert with my fear of falling so well that I can now say that I have mastered the 'old lady walk'. My tear ducts spasmed ever so briefly, sending out that prickling sensation to all corners. Now at the ground level walkout, I assessed the task anew. This would be much easier -- just two attachment points and the wire ties were already on the garland. All I had to do was slip these over the hooks in the brickwork.
Back on the ladder again, I hoisted the garland and clumsily but effectively slipped the wire loop over the hook. The hook immediately let go of the brick. More foul language spat out of my mouth. I re-set the hook and tried again. Same result. I slowly descended the ladder. I felt old and so utterly useless. My tear ducts unleashed a mighty torrent, washing away every last piece of Christmas cheer. A few minutes later and more composed I sauntered into the house to enlist help from the man of the house. Together we got the blessed garland up. I was exhausted and desolate. I moped through the afternoon. The third garland would have to wait for another day.
In the early evening I received an email from a friend living with stage IV colon cancer. It seems the chemo she has endured these past three months has had no impact. The tumours have almost doubled in size and now there are more of them. Suddenly my day looked pretty good, embarrassingly abundant in fact. It is all a matter of perspective.
My Christmas cheer is back though somewhat muted. Not all is merry and bright in my creche. Perhaps that is the way it's always been in creches everywhere. The creche will always be the gathering place of the hopes and the fears of all the years.
Hang in there Virginia! You are not alone.