She said to make a list. She makes lists for everything, for every venture, and then she keeps the lists long after all of the tasks are done. I think this is serial clutter, but she rarely makes mistakes, so I made a list called Summer List.

I bought six boxes of sparklers. I love sparklers. They remind me of my childhood when firecrackers were banned on my block because Mrs. Eichelberger had gotten a letter from a cousin in Santa Rosa, Calif., whose nephew had blown his finger off with a big firecracker. When this story got around in the coffee klatches at the Ladies Altar and Rosary Society, everyone panicked, and that year we all went to sparklers only.

The only dissenter was my uncle John Brady who worked for the railroad and used railroad emergency flares in his backyard. That was fun, and the smoke kept the mosquitos at bay.

So to my list. I found the flag in a box in the back, but no pole. I still have the broken pole to a broken rake. This could work. The list thing is not only to the Fourth of July but to the entire summer. On that list was the hope that I could now invest in a big barbecue grill. I’ve been thinking about upgrading from messy charcoal to propane.

I’ve always been leery of propane tanks, because my deceased brother’s deceased ex-wife knew of a friend in Phoenix whose propane tank blew up and burned down his deck. This is a true story, but it bears as much relevance to my current situation as Mrs. Eichelberger’s cousin’s nephew’s finger. I should never bring stories like this up, because now she’s definitely down on the propane.

The list grows longer. My oldest daughter is coming home for a week with her sweetheart. We haven’t met the sweetheart yet, but it looks serious, so we want to make a good impression. This requires extra effort to ensure that the guest apartment in the back is spotless and sweet smelling. This means I will have to take her list for extras to the store and spend more money, not to mention extra days cleaning back there, and that’s no easy task.

This is the place where we keep both of the fake Christmas trees and everything else that we don’t want, but can’t throw out because they have sentimental value. If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know that includes the collection of old religious items, like the drawer full of casket crucifixes from funerals. I don’t want to get into that again. It gets worse. Just as I was about to throw myself into the process, the temperature went up to 98 degrees, which of course turned this back apartment into a sixth-floor walkup in Islamabad.

It was then that I realized the fans from last year had broken down. They were on last year’s list, the one she didn’t keep.

I quickly rushed to Home Depot and bought a nice stand-up power fan. Fifteen minutes later on the sixth floor walkup in Islamabad, I was confronted with four parts that didn’t seem to fit. As I wrestled with them, sweat blinding my eyes, she, who has younger newer eyes, read the directions to me. It still didn’t work.

As the temperature and my blood pressure rose, I rushed back to the store. The very nice salesclerk lady couldn’t figure it out. While she was trying, two customers joined in, then a third. Two of them disagreed about the connection. Eventually, a bright young fan geek named Justin stepped in, and in four quick moves, put it together.

The fan worked, the windows are washed, the shower cleaned, floors vacuumed and sweet smelling flowers have been installed.

Now as I sit in the cool shade of the garage trying to fix the flag to a old broom pole, I’m wondering if sparklers are too wussy. Can you buy railroad flares?

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer


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