31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Chevy Chase Has Nothing On Me!

Single With Children: Mom faces fear of heights with humor

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 12/12/01

Last year, I have to admit, I didn't give it my best effort. I tried to squeeze by with the least possible work. It wasn't impressive. No one walking down my street would have given it a second glance.

I had a litany of excuses at the ready, covering everything from "just getting settled in a new home" to "this is really a contemporary style home and that makes it so much more difficult to work with." I used everything but "the dog ate my homework." The fact of the matter is that last Christmas will forever go down as the Christmas Mom dropped the "exterior illumination" ball...I mean, bulb.

This past Sunday, if you were anywhere within earshot of my home (and Sunday afternoon, this could have been miles away...given the volume), you no doubt heard me attempting to hang up Christmas lights while hanging on to my life. I dreaded it from the beginning.

Everyone has a fear. For some it's monsters. Others might feel fright at the mere mention of a dentist's drill. The thing that spells P-A-N-I-C for me, is the slanted roof of a two story house. I have to admit that even typing that sentence made me hyperventilate just the tiniest bit.

I even considered employing someone to take on the job, or hey, how about Katie's 6-foot 5-inch boyfriend? He'd hardly need a ladder! But no, Justin was quick to remind me, I had to face this with him. He cajoled, encouraged and finally threatened me with the prospect of facing yet another whole year of nonstop talk involving how I chickened out. No, no, no, I couldn't take that. I put on my most ragged pair of jeans, donned my baseball cap and screwed on what little courage I possessed, then faced Justin's open window, which I not so affectionately dubbed "the portal to my death," leading to the dreaded roof.

Tentatively, gingerly, I faced my nemesis and slowly swung out to where there was nothing more between me and the front yard except about 20 feet. Actually, I was juggling two fears and that's not an easy thing to do. I was afraid of losing my grip, figuratively and literally, and rolling off onto the concrete walk that leads up to our front door, and I was equally, if not more, terrified of witnessing Justin doing the same. It was hard to know how to proceed because I was nearly frozen to the point of being unable to move.

I scanned my environment for something to grab onto should some confluence of events lead to the disaster I was so certain was looming in my immediate future. It was at about this time that everything parental and any leadership qualities I might possess were nowhere to be found. I am told that the first words out of my mouth after a couple of steps were "Justin, we are going to DIE! Do you know that? We are going to die and the cause of death will be trauma due to putting up Christmas lights. Are you AWARE of that because I just want you to know that I'm pretty darn sure that both of us are NOT going to survive this!" In recounting his "take" on what occurred, he said there was much more inflection in my voice...that, and the observation he had never really seen my eyes bulge out to the degree they did. He wishes it had been videotaped. I'm thankful, deeply thankful, that it wasn't.

This is also about the time I learned Justin has a real sense of comic timing and knows how to use it. There I was, terrified, and he started reciting lines from movies that he knows will make me giggle. He then launched into the story he's going to share with his children and grandchildren about the day his mother mentally "lost it" one Sunday afternoon in December of 2001. I can't remember laughing so hard. In fact, I was nearly bent over, which wasn't really a bad thing as it made for a lower center of gravity. Also, I couldn't really see over the edge as well. I experienced, firsthand, how laughter diffuses tension, and let me tell you, I was tense. He directed me, untangling lines and popping out bad bulbs and before I knew it, we had made it all the way across the entire front of the house. No one fell. The paramedics could relax. The house was gloriously illuminated, and I can't remember having more fun.

After we finished the upstairs, we headed downstairs and with the aid of a ladder and more of Justin's "impressions of Mum spazzing out on the roof," we were soon standing back, Clark Griswold style, admiring a very twinkling, two story, contemporary house. I was grateful that it occurred without incident and tragedy. I was even more blessed to have shared it with my 15-year-old son. It was a magic time that had nothing at all to do with "chasing lights" or extension cords. The real lesson Justin so lovingly taught me was that it's OK to be afraid, in fact, have some fun with it! Be a little absurd and even dare to wink at it.

There is no doubt in my mind that his recollection of this event will be recounted someday when I'm a very old woman and he's a father to his own tribe of kids, begging him to get the house ready for Christmas. I would venture to say he might even embellish just a bit, as people often do when recounting past events, but that's fine. It's what becomes a legend, right? When I went to sleep Sunday night, already sore from muscles that were more tense than strained, I had a deep sense of satisfaction and couldn't help but smile at our collective antics. Life is filled with many moments that can only be qualifed as "don't miss." This past Sunday, for me, was an absolute "don't miss." I'm so grateful I didn't.

Readers can e-mail Susie at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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