When I was a child, the biggest fight of the year between my parents was during the lighting of the Christmas tree. Usually it was an artificial tree, but in those days it didn’t really matter. Before any decorating could commence, the lights must be untangled and tested and strung on the tree. Those were also the days when if one light went out the whole string went out so it was quite a frustrating process that culminated with neither parent speaking to each other and barely to me. So there I would be, all alone, humming Jingle Bells to myself decorating the tree. Ahh, holiday memories . . .
Flash forward to the year 2011, the day after Thanksgiving. My husband decides he needs to tackle the leaves in our yard. You actually couldn’t see any yard, only leaves. While hubby was outside clearing leaves, my daughter and I decided to decorate. Together we carefully opened the attic. The scariest part for me is straightening out the stairs. I’m just a little too short for the job so there is always a precarious moment as everything falls into place. Then I was certain the boxes of decorations would be too heavy, but together, my daughter and I successfully brought everything down, including the tree, although we both laughed about the fact that we’d love to see a video of our efforts because they were quite creative.
My daughter was in charge of the decorating and I of the cleaning. I would dust, vacuum or clean the area and she would then decorate it. She saved the tree for last but by then we were both getting a little tired. I really wanted the job to be complete, return the empty boxes to the attic and collapse on the couch. Tink (my daughter’s nickname short for Tinkerbell) began to do what I call “lolly-gag” around, ultimately accomplishing more television watching than tree decorating. As I was putting up cleaning supplies after scrubbing toilets (note: I wasn’t cleaning them to be decorated, this was just part of a weekly routine) I noticed that she was holding the exact same decorations that she had in her hands several moments ago. My exhaustion began to get to me and I called out, “Finish up already, that shouldn’t take all day!” I must have been channeling my mother.
Speaking of my mother, a few months ago I was lamenting to her about Tink’s increasingly smart-alec mouth. She’s 13 – if you’ve ever been the parent of teenagers you already understand. My mother said, “Wait until she smarts off and you realize she’s right. Then you have to figure out how to respond.” I admit that my first thought was, “You mean there were times when I was a teenager that I was actually right and you knew it?” but even at my age I know better than to say that to my mother. She might still ground me.
Back to my story, I scolded Tink about her “lolly-gagging” and she replied, “I am, I am!” short pause, “If you want to help me you can.” It wasn’t the words she spoke, it was the tone. An unmistakable challenge to my authority as a mother oozing through them. Although I realized the truth of what she said, I spouted back, “That’s just the kind of Smart-Alec attitude I won’t tolerate in my house! No ma’am!” I hurried into the next room thinking that even if she was right she should know better than to taunt me that way! I almost starting to tear up. This really was exactly like my childhood Christmases.
Our mutual moment of irritation soon passed, I finished cleaning the house and she finalized the decorating. Tink did a beautiful job and I told her as much, complimenting her on some of the details. Finally we were ready to return the boxes to the attic.
Now we were both feeling a little cocky at this point. We’d already accomplished the hard part – getting the heavy boxes down from the attic. At this point we were only returning empty boxes to the attic. I opened the attic door and then reached up to pull down the stairs. What happened next is a little fuzzy. I arrived at that precarious moment and it quickly went from precarious to horrifying. All I remember is a lot of wooden steps coming at me and Tink hollering repeatedly “Are you ok? Are you ok??” I would have thought that the sound of me yelling “Aaaahhhhhh!!!!” would have been the indication that I was not ok. When the chaotic moment passed I was still standing, I knew I was probably hurt but not entirely sure where. Tink’s eyes were as wide as saucers and again she asked, “ARE YOU OK?” This time I shakily replied, “Give me just a moment.” She hugged me tightly and then . . . we both burst out laughing. She laughed so hard she collapsed to the floor.
There’s nothing like a near-death experience for producing riotous laughter. It’s been the sustenance of America’s Funniest Videos for years. As a matter of fact if we had that “attic attack” on video I’m sure we’d have a chance at the $10,000 prize. After resting for a few minutes and inspecting my arms and legs for signs of broken bones I came to the conclusion that I was fine. Together Tink and I loaded the empty boxes into the attic passing back and forth a lot of “be carefuls” and “you got its?” But the dangerous part was over.
My arms are black and blue and my right wrist is still swollen, but not a scratch on my face or any nasty bumps on my head. Nothing that a little time won’t cure. And together my daughter and I created some new memories. Years from now as she’s decorating her own tree in her own home with her own children she’ll probably double over with laughter remembering the time I nearly died in a tragic attack of the attic stairs incident. Ahh, Holiday Memories . . .