While I put the finishing touches on The Commandments of Christmas Decorating, I thought I’d keep you all entertained with a guest post from a very special person in my life…my dad!
He’s the king of Christmas decorating, except for that one time…
Following the Christmas decorating post on MMWords I was inspired to describe and depict a story from several years ago that accurately outlines the inherent risk of the use of ladders by anyone (most notably me) who is NOT proficient in their proper use. The extent of the risk rises, metaphorically, with higher extension ladders and beyond.
A mere step-ladder, for example, has risk of head injuries such as cuts, abrasions, and possible ankle and arm damage including bone breakage. But as you graduate to any type of extension ladder, the use of which places the user higher than they can see with standard issue CVS reader glasses, the risk of injury increases exponentially to: major injury, ICU visits, coma and life-altering scares to young people.
The Event occurred early in the decorating season of 2000. I had selected a homemade wreath to put over our hearth at home in our relatively new house. We had moved in during fall 1999, and the previous Christmas we did not venture into full decorating: merely focusing on getting a tree up with some lights and decorating the mantle. This year, however, I felt we needed something grander, in keeping with the wide expanse of our great room which has ceiling height of 23 feet and exposed natural beams.
So, after assembling the homemade wreath (adding poinsettia leaves for some color) I proceeded to get out the ladder and place the wreath on the middle portion of the fireplace chimney that extends to the ceiling. The first placement was uneventful: I managed under my wife’s watchful eye to get up the ladder, place a nail, get the wreath hung and the ladder back into garage without a scratch. HUGE SUCCESS! I only inspired a few hesitant stares from her while ascending and descending and a big sigh of relieve when the ladder was safely returned to its menacing perch in the garage.
Now I should say that if anyone could call themselves a “ladder whisperer” it would be me. Each time I touch the thing I hear voices in my head saying: You’re F$&#%’d. You’re going down mother F*&#$er. What the hell are you doing taunting me with those slippery sole shoes a$%hole? The ladder has a very foul mouth.
Returning it to the garage after any use is my personal victory; a MacArthur sort of moment where D-Day is defined by any uneventful use. (Having not served in the greatest generation, these little victories simply have to do).
Following said placement of wreath, I settled in on the couch and, of course, viewed my work. Wait…what is that I note? The wreath is NOT CENTERED!!!
Now, the wreath is taunting me: screaming at me: I’m not centered, I’m not centered… I can’t relax; I can’t live with it…
I ask my wife, does she notice it? She says it’s fine. This, I’m sure is not in response to the inquiry, but rather, a dreaded nod to the fact she does not want me to venture back up on the ladder and tempt my good fortune. My daughters chime in as well: Dad, its fine.
I manage to suppress my instincts throughout the day and surrender to the wreath taunts while going about the remainder of my business: putting away some boxes, getting some coffee, washing my car, and flipping the bird to the ladder each pass.
That night I go to sleep restless. Tossing and turning throughout the night, I go out on the balcony to look several times: the wreath is bathed in a very soft beam of light: it screams at me: I’m not centered dumb a$#!
I quietly get up, drag out the ladder and attempt to place it without disturbing my sleeping family.
Here, sports fans, is my fatal mistake: and proof positive that a highly educated person can lack the important gene of ladder common sense. I placed the foot of the ladder on the area rug in the great room, right at its edge. Somehow I had not done so in the earlier attempt; perhaps my wife had noted it and corrected me.
I made my way up the ladder, ever so gently, ever so quietly…each moment getting higher and closer to the wreath…(it actually giggled at me here…) Imagine, if you will, Marley on Scrooge’s door, coming to life.
At the peak of my ascent I felt a slight movement…the ladder footing, sensing my peril, now begin to put pressure on the rug causing it to crinkle up and slide away...
You know how they say that in a disaster your life flashes before your eyes? Well, I stand here now to confirm this happens….the slide and descent seemingly took forever…
As I descended, and I do mean this, my only thought was: “Oh my wife is going to be very mad at me.”
In HD quality, the unfolding scene went like this: slow and frightening descent… the ladder (and me) every so subtly starting to shift to the right.
It then simultaneously went down to the right, me clinging with white knuckled fingers as she laughed at me with a voice that sounded like Vincent Price at the end of Thriller.
The right post of the ladder then skidded off the edge of the chimney and the ladder contorted itself into the window blinds then down into the Christmas tree.
Ornaments smashing and crashing.
The left side of the tree crushed.
The ladder crashes towards the floor with me riding atop it like Santa on a possessed sleigh.
An enormous symphony of crashing, glass, wood splintering and metal banging.
A huge thud at the end.
I look up from the crash and there, on the balcony were my daughters and my wife, eyes like saucers.
All I could say: “I wanted to straighten out the wreath…..”
Thanks, Dad, for brightening my day with that one! In case any of you are wondering, yes, that really did happen, in the middle of the night, 12 years ago. Good luck to all you decorators out there. Be careful with that ladder! Don’t forget to check in tomorrow for The Commandments of Christmas Decorating with all my favorite decorating classics!