I’m pretty sure that my brother Gord and I were in grade 10 and 11 or 11 and 12, somewhere in there, when we were first assigned the Christmas lights duty on the United Church Manse house in Kipling back in the 70’s when our family was living there. The task was kind of sprung on us one day when we got home from our regular post-schoolday hang out at the old Hub Cafe.
Dad usually saved these kinds of tasks for himself. Sure, he'd allow us to cut the grass, shovel the snow off of the sidewalks and driveway and distribute the cow caca a couple of times a year on the garden but the finicky stuff he liked to do himself 'cause he was a little anal about it, you know? He could be awful particular about certain things. Just like the car washing...he'd "allow" you to do it but if it didn't cut the mustard...his mustard, that is, you'd be heading right back to the carwash.
My guess is that it got pretty darn cold pretty early that year and he didn't want to go up on the roof and mess with the lights himself or he was just giving us one of his "character building" lessons like the times when he made us help with the chicken butchering or go with him when he was helping someone castrating calves, or some damn thing...you know, the kind of tasks that would make us real men...blah, blah, blah.
Anyway, I was none too excited about climbing up on the roof and attaching the Christmas lights to the eaves. I sniveled and I whined and I stomped around while Gordie just went about the task of untangling the lights and cords while telling me, "You know, if you'd stop complaining and get at it we'd be done before you know it. Bitching about it won't make it go away." So then I started complaining about him complaining about my complaining and I huffed and I puffed and I...climbed the ladder. I always hated it when he was right. And he usually was. We froze our hands and our feet and our faces and we had to redo a few spots but we managed to fit in a bit of fun, too, as we usually did and before you know it we had the lights hung up and a hot chocolate in our hands. Yup, lights were hung and character was built.
It's funny, Dad pointed out, that you don't say a whole lot about your frozen fingers and your frozen toes and your frozen face after an afternoon of road hockey or tobogganing or shinny at the rink, do you now? Because it's "volunteer" freezing that's why! It's different! It even feels different!
The next year we came home around the same time from the same place and there was a whack of lights lying on the patio again and a ladder leaning on the eaves. Just like the forks sticking out of the manure pile on the garden in the fall we knew what had to be done and who was going to do it without having to be told. Last year's light hanging had been a learning experience and a character builder but the second time around was just plain torture.
Fast forward forty odd years later and I'm stomping around our house now and whining about getting up on the ladder and hanging the stupid lights and I'm going, "Why can't we be green this year? You know, save the planet and everything and not spin the power meter off of the wall and go old school and burn a candle or two in the window or something because it's pretty damn cold out there today and I'm going to freeze my fingers and my toes and my face and I think I'm catching a cold already and what if I fall off the ladder...I know, I know...if we just stick to task we'd be done before you know it and we'll have a cup of hot chocolate in our hands...blah, blah, blah."
"My core belief is that if you're complaining about something for more than three minutes, two minutes ago you should have done something about it!" Caitlin Moran (1975-).