A couple of days ago the wife informed me that two of our sons (the youngest and oldest) wanted to put the Christmas lights on the house as a gift to me this year . . . and, she informed me that I would let them. How is any good husband supposed to respond to such a statement? With a “Yes, dear.”
At the breakfast table I informed the boys that they needed to go across the street to the neighbors and ask if they could borrow a ladder to get on the roof of the house. These are neighbors that neither one knows, but I figured that they were adults. It was about time for them to introduce themselves and learn how to borrow something. It is not often that we have “whine” with breakfast, but we did this morning. I had mental flashback to about twenty years ago . . . I ended up getting the ladder myself and hauling it back over . . . so much for giving ol’ Dad the day off.
Next the two of them hauled the sack with the Christmas lights in them up onto the roof, strung them out across the pitch, and declared that they were ready to start hanging them on the gutters. I asked if they had plugged them in to check to see if they would light up. The response was: “Oh, do you mean we were supposed to do that?” Duh! I could only do what any good Keener male could do . . . I rolled my eyes and whispered to God, “Help me!”
As they dragged the lights across the roof to the backside where the nearest electrical outlet was, I cringed . . . Christmas lights are notoriously easy to break . . . Thank goodness, they all lit up! So, it was drag the lights back across the roof to the front of the house where they meticulously laid them out above the clutters ready to clip on. They did this while the dogs and I went to get the mail.
First thing I noticed when I got back from the post office with the dogs was that they had begun to clip them up backwards . . . they had the wrong end of the lights on the wrong end of the house. We would have needed about two hundred feet of extension cords to make their arrangement work. I pointed this out . . . which brought a bunch of laughter from the boys, with the oldest one declaring, “See, I told you Dad would tell us we were doing it wrong!” Of course, the youngest piped in, “Mom said this is the way it is supposed to go.” I assured them that they were wrong, as I have been the one to put the lights up each year. Once again, the lights had to be unhooked, turned around, and the whole process begun one more time.
Eventually they got them strung up . . . I did the extension cord from the roof to the outlet on the side of the house . . . primarily because I could see in my mind the two of them leaning over the house, arguing about how to string the cord, and falling to their deaths. At least if it happened to me, I couldn’t blame anyone else.
Since they were in such a “giving” mood I informed them that they could clean the gutters out . . . now we had “whine” on the roof . . . sounds like some sort of song, doesn’t it? The youngest went off to get the hose from the garage, but instead of carrying up to the roof, he stood on the ground . . . twirling one end around and around . . . until he pitched it to his older brother on the roof. It only took three tries before they got it. Then the oldest shoved the hose down the spouts and pushed . . . and pushed . . . and pushed. I suggested that he use a little more hose. He yelled down at his brother to untwine some more hose. One down, three to go. After the second one there was a mini-celebration . . . they were done! “Don’t forget the gutters on the back side of the house.” Some celebrations don’t last very long.
Instead of pulling the hose to the top of the house, the youngest and oldest walked the edge of the roof to the back side of the house . . . the youngest had to navigate one corner, climb one fence, and then another corner before the two of them reached their destination. Then came the shove, shove, shove . . . until the gutters were cleaned. The celebration commenced once again . . .
. . . until I took advantage of their “giving” spirit one more time. “Hey, guys! How about you rake the leaves up along the fence?” By then I was looking for some cheese to go with the whine. But, they did rake the leaves . . . filled up two big, black garbage bags . . . which probably would have fit into one bag, but hey! They were doing the raking . . . I would stomp them down later after they put them in the garbage container. Despite their reluctance to do any more “giving”, I did get them to put their mother’s sand bags in the back of her truck . . . they only busted one.
Then I only had one more act of “giving” that I wanted from the two of them. I wanted them to take the stack of cardboard from the garage to the recycling bin behind the supermarket. Then I wanted them to go into the supermarket, go to the chips aisle, and get me some “white popcorn”. I even gave them three dollars to purchase the “white popcorn”. Off they went . . .
. . . fifteen minutes later they returned and I heard laughter upstairs in the house. Their mother was laughing at them . . . they had returned with a bag of “white cheddar cheese popcorn”. They wanted three more dollars to go back and get the right popcorn—the stuff you have to pop yourself—the white kind! I refused . . . told them to take it back and get the right stuff. Ten minutes later they returned . . . with the “white popcorn” and a six-pack of beer. The white cheddar cheese popcorn was still on the table . . . they insisted that their other brother—the middle son, would eat it. They were too embarrassed to exchange it for the right kind of popcorn . . . cost them about three times as much to do it their way, but I do appreciate the beer.
And, then . . . it was over. The “giving” session was over. The lights were hung, the gutters were cleaned, the leaves were raked up, the Toyota prepared for the winter, and I eventually got my white popcorn. The comedy of errors was finished and things looked right . . . the gift was received. The intentions were noble and good, but the desired result . . . me having a respite from the annual Thanksgiving weekend Christmas light decorating . . . well, I’m still out on that one. I think it was more stressful watching them do what I have always done, than for me to actually get up on the roof and do it myself. But, it was an ultimatum from the wife for me to smile and say “thank you”. Yes, dear.
All my children have reached adulthood. At times they act like adults and do adult things, at other times . . . like whenever they gather together for the holidays or some big event, it only takes a day or two before they revert to their childhood years. I see it when we are sitting around the dining room table breaking the bread . . . it comes is the kidding around . . . comes in the laughter . . . comes in the whining. Even though there are adults around the table, I see my children ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago around that table. Those were good times then, and they are good times now.
I am not sure which was the gift today . . . the putting up of the Christmas lights or the memories it evoked. I guess I should take them both . . . the kids are becoming adults and some day they just might grow up. In the meantime, I am thankful. Thanks, guys!