July 5, 2020

Christmas 2011

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

• By John F. Chisholm •

Christmas exerts a pressure all its own.  Try as I will to regard it as simply another holiday or, better yet, just another day, the expectations of the season weigh heavily upon me until the 25th rolls around and finds me short.  Again.

Family members arrive.  It’s great to see them, but somehow their presence only adds to the unrealistic expectation of cramming more than can possibly be completed in one short month.

Whether it’s the rush of the season, the pure contrary nature of living or simply my own folly, every December something always happens that slows me down.  It’s inevitable.

This year provided yet another example.

We had the front of the barn re-shingled last June.  The barn desperately needed the help; that’s not the issue.  I bet the shingles we took off were 100 years old.  Older.  Also true, I wanted the new shingles to weather a bit before treating them.  But waiting until now wasn’t part of the plan.  Events got away from me, just the way they do every December.  Being honest, that happens more and more.

In any case, I wanted to treat the new shingles before winter.  The forecast for that Thursday looked good, cold but clear.  Wednesday afternoon I was in town anyway.  I rented a hoist.  Electric-hydraulic, supposedly it was all charged and ready to go.

It wasn’t.

I should have inspected the batteries while in town.  Once it was home and I discovered that it didn’t work, I looked more closely.  The battery terminals were corroded, the cells were down, even the plates were exposed.  It was too late at that point.  I filled the cells, cleaned the terminals and plugged in the hoist.

Then I went to work on house current.

Of course the hoist turns.  That’s the whole point, right?  My extension cord is heavy-duty and 100-foot, more than long enough.  But 38 feet in the air, how can you keep track of everything?

I was at full height, three and a half stories up, staining those shingles in the weak December sunshine when the turning hoist unplugged itself.  The cord must have caught.

Lawrence Welk couldn’t have said better, “Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!”

Certainly there was a safety.  Down.  Yes.  It worked.  Unfortunately, the barn was in the way.  The batteries, despite having been plugged in moments previously, hadn’t the power to turn it out of the way.  There I sat.  For the rest of day.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting for my wife to come home from Bangor to plug me back in.

I eyed every possible way to get down from that hoist safely before deciding there simply wasn’t one.  My hands and clothing were soaked with oil stain.  Rappelling from an air hose hardly seemed wise.  I reminded myself of Dr. Seuss.  “So all I could do was to sit, sit, sit.  And I did not like it.  Not one little bit.”

I was there for hours and hours.  It was dark.  I was very cold and stiff by the time Wendy finally pulled in the drive.

I finished the barn the next day ― my wife home the entire time.  I should have had brains enough to insist on her presence Thursday.

When I returned the hoist late, the equipment rental company wanted to charge me an extra day.

I disagreed.

Who won?  I can’t say.  At least not yet.

I’m awaiting the credit card bill with extra apprehension.

I certainly hope everyone else is having better luck.

Hours of idle contemplation in the middle of my busiest month did teach me something however:   Slow down.  Enjoy your holiday. Because, if you don’t, sooner or later circumstances will slow you down whether you want to be slowed down or not.  I promise.