Sunday, January 12, 2014

Penance, playtime and preparations

Finally the weather has broken to the ‘above freezing’ realm. As such, I was able to get out yesterday and complete my penance – for having left a plastic and a wooden ‘holy family’ out in the deep snow and frigid temperatures beyond Epiphany!

The plastic ‘holy family’ were un-tethered from the plug-adapters, lifted off their wooden stakes and deprived of the ‘bag-of-rocks-in-their-socks’ which had prevented them tipping over in the wind while they adorned my front yard for about six weeks. They, including the milk-crate manger, were all hoisted into the attic-space above the garage where they’ll remain until next Advent. They may find it a bit uncomfortable up there in July and August when it is 100F (38C) outside – and probably 150F (66C) up there, but at least they’ll be dry!

From the other side of the driveway, I had lifted the wooden ‘holy family' off their re-bar posts and picked up the spotlight that had blinded them for the past six weeks. Their home until next Advent would be against the firewall in the garage – behind the ladder that I had just descended from after stowing their plastic clones. These too would now be safe from the damp – and being in, rather than above, the garage, the ‘woodies’ would not be as hot as the ‘plastics’.  It may seem a little odd to put the ‘family’ more likely to melt, in the hotter storage area, but placement was more a consideration of space, than comfort! 

I got out the step ladder, changed the flags on the porch – from Christmas-themed flags, to a small ‘Stars and Bars’ and a ‘Birds and Bushes’-themed larger one. That also made it possible to remove the Christmas lights that had been strung across the porch and around the front door some weeks ago. I merely unhitched those strings of lights, leaving their ‘boxing up’, along with the hundreds of feet of those on the bushes, to my wife’s capable hands. I am not allowed to get involved in that part of the celebratory actions. I am ‘willing, able - but not allowed’!

Nicer weather today than yesterday, so also time to get some of the grand-children out to play! So, after a phone call or two, I was on my way, with my youngest son, two of his kids and my elder daughter’s oldest son, to ‘watch the eagles’. No, not they of ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Long Road out of Eden fame, but the American Bald Eagle.

Our trip was to Winfield Locks and Dam 25 about 20 miles away on the frozen Mississippi River. There, each year at this time, these majestic creatures gather to feast on fish in the segments of the river that are ice-free. Besides the raptors, there were hundreds of gulls – sitting on the ice and in the water’s edge, upstream of the locks and dam, where barges had passed through earlier. We saw six Bald Eagles – one perched 60-feet up in a tree quite close by, and five standing on the ice just in front of three duck-blinds almost a ¼ mile away towards the far bank of the ‘Mighty Mississippi’. We drove ½ mile downstream, below the locks and dam, to where the Winfield car ferry was making its ‘every 20 minutes’ trek across to the Illinois side of the river then back to the Missouri side.

Just 100 yards upstream from the ferry-landing, on the right bank of the river, we were treated to the sight of about 30 Bald Eagles – in one large tree. Every few minutes or so, one would glide in from high above the river and gracefully land into the branches. The three grand-children, barely showed any effect of the cold (it was sunny but breezy) as they marveled at the sight before them, eagerly looking through their binoculars. ‘Playtime’ over, we headed back for a lunch at a fast-food joint and then I headed home where more tasks awaited me.

Next up on my list of tasks was to shovel as much snow as I could manage – my wife was out shopping and so deprived me of the pleasure of simply handing her the shovel while I directed operations – from the curbside. Our city’s snow-plows had thoughtfully pushed a pile of snow, 3-feet high that extended 6-feet from the curb, just where I normally park my vehicles. Sure, I had my vehicles parked in my driveway since before the 10” snow fell, but tonight, I needed those curbside space as well as the driveway spaces. Why?  

My younger daughter was having a bachelorette party; the more than two-and-a-half-dozen celebrants, clad in 80’s garb, were assembling at our house where a bus was to take them to places I thought it best my wife dare not go!  So, I had clear the garage to accommodate two cars, direct the arriving guests to park six cars and SUVs in the driveway and have snow-free curbside available for six more vehicles. My truck had no space where it could be parked, so was left in the center of the cul-de-sac until the bus had departed! No matter, I was NOT about to be disturbed by a bunch of liquor-filled young ladies arriving back at the house just in time to wake the rooster and stumbling in and out of bathrooms or trying to hold on to windows that would insist on chasing doors until they sobered up. I had arranged to spend the night at my other daughter’s house with her husband and their three kids. That I did; I arrived just as the twins (1 year-old) had been put to bed. With their older brother sound asleep on the sofa, I popped my first can of beer since New Year’s Eve and ‘dad’ and I watched a bit of an NFL match on TV until I started to doze off too. I climbed the stairs, crawled into bed and my busy day was ended.  

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