4 a.m. Is A Wonderful Life

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Yesterday, returning home from our day of avarice and caprice, I opened the surprises which had arrived. It’s trickier during the holidays, especially when my lists are full of weird and half-forgotten surprises.

First, I tore open the cabinet knobs I had ordered on Amazon. Each was packed in its own little cube. While my expectations when ordering were low, the company doubled the quantity they sent and the knobs were notably beautiful. They are ridiculously prismed, each a nexus of colors. Naturally, Dawn and I both loved them. I offered to replace her bathroom set, the one I had just installed, but she insisted that I go ahead and install them in my bathroom. Recently, after much delay, I finally got around to putting cabinet pulls on the drawers and doors of the house. Believe it or not, the builder didn’t do anything to address the convenience of actually living in the house. Dawn and I spent hours yanking on the drawers expecting them to open, only to walk away with snarled and snapped fingers. While I gnaw and chew on my fingernails like a crazed bear, Dawn keeps her fingernails orderly – and didn’t appreciate random nails flying off when simply trying to get a teaspoon out of a kitchen drawer. I finally overcame my misgivings and started drilling. As expected, I needed 6 different size screws to address the builder’s wildly inconsistent approach to cabinet installation. I used my highly advanced piece of cardboard template to place the holes. To my surprise, I finished it without a major fire, holes in the ceiling, or losing an eye or finger. I’m pretty sure Dawn was surprised too. When I chose the sets of knobs, I asked myself what a normal person might find to be appealing and followed that instinct. Had I followed my own, I would have chosen from the less-popular “Epileptic Color Shock” line of hardware. If I were to be assigned a Contractor Rating, I think it could be best summed up as “Don’t.”

Second, my much-ridiculed set of 5 remote outlet switches arrived. Dawn had previously expressed specific and snarky misgivings about this idea. After seeing what Hobby Lobby and Lowes charged, though (with one of these almost requiring a mortgage application simply to afford them), I found a set on Amazon which was an incredible deal. I needed a set of these so that we wouldn’t need to walk around the living room and need to perform acrobatics to reach the outlet switches. (I had previously ordered a set of Belkin switches, which were awesome, too, by the way.) If you didn’t know, my living room is a feat of Christmas engineering. The entire interior perimeter is covered by vertical and horizontal columns of craziness. I planned the light sets so that no particular outlet would be overburdened and so that I could add additional lights easily. Having just seen “Christmas Vacation” again no doubt inspired me to avoid having 25,000 lights plugged into a single outlet. P.S. While I am no fan of the builder of this house, having a modern electrical system is a miracle. It’s true that I paid to install an advanced system at the last house before we sold it, but having an electrical system designed to work is a laughably overlooked privilege in this life. Because I’m blind and stupid, Dawn used the magnifying glass to read the ‘pairing’ instructions for one of the remote-controlled outlets. Once I’m frustrated with a piece of technology, I’d rather do naked cartwheels on the freeway than continue to attempt to make something work. Dawn, on the other hand, is OCD and any unfinished check on her to-do list will turn her hair white until she can address it. Luckily, she figured out the last outlet snafu while I snarled and moaned in the kitchen. With a ‘click,’ we can now turn on all four million lights simultaneously with one remote. As Dawn says, it is not as satisfying as the clapper, but it’s a delight.

Third, another surprise arrived from MarriedToTheMetal (an Etsy seller). As has been the case for all my previous purchases, it was spectacular. I had to be clever and evasive (not to be confused with the Grinch’s “joyful and triumphant”) with Dawn so as to not arouse suspicions. When I clanged the gift with a loud metallic bang on the kitchen table, though, she immediately jumped to the conclusion I had illegally bought her yet another Christmas present. For those who don’t know, Dawn is one of those unfortunate souls whose birthday is on Christmas Eve. She’s a good sport about it. However, I have to maintain the fiction that my gifts are in fact given in celebration of her birthday rather than the yuletide season. She growls about me for buying too much- whatever that means. I just pretend she is suffering from a minor head injury and do what I want anyway. It’s a delicate arrangement and one which seems to be working decently well.

During this morning’s walk, I was surprised to find the Springdale Christmas tree was still lit. It’s a good thing, too, otherwise, I would have been tempted to turn on the tree manually from the connection hanging just below the Shiloh Square overhang. (It sounds suspiciously like I’ve investigated this before, doesn’t it? You would be correct if you assume this to be true. I have to continue to remind myself that the city didn’t create all this just for me, even if it continues to feel this way in the early hours of the morning.) The moon above was indeed a supermoon, although still only intermittently visible against the cloud cover. The concrete trails, however, shimmered in a luminous white ribbon as I walked. Many of the houses along my walk were still lit with holiday cheer. Despite the unseasonable warmth of the December morning, it was a glorious way to start the day.

I took a detour down Emma. From the square, I was hearing an unusual and arrhythmic flapping. It reminded me of special effects from a science fiction movie. My imagination was running wild – and without a saddle. It ultimately turned out to be Tyvek fiber sheeting a contractor had stretched across the façade of the first floor of a building undergoing renovation. When I turned around, I jumped a little in surprise. Someone was standing on the rooftop of the buildings across the street, smoking a cigarette. I waved at him. I think he was surprised I had noticed him, even above the brightly-lit and festive street. He waved back. We shared our respective moment of sonder, each of us bound to continue our day.

P.S. The tree twinkling is exactly how I feel most mornings as I experience the mundane surprises.

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