Friday, August 05, 2005

To Bee or Not to Bee

Since we returned from our family vacation to Buffalo in July, some of you may be awaiting an update on the situation with my parents' deck. For those of you not familiar with THE DECK, it has been declared a tourist hazard by the Buffalo Board of Ridiculous Injuries. I have previously mentioned how its many lurching and protruding layers have cut down friends, relatives and neighbors who were supposedly in their primes before they stepped foot (and torso, collar bone, head, etc.) onto my parents so-called deck. The deck was once a fabulous outdoor addition to my parents' home, but alas, years, the weather, and the shifting of several tectonic plates beneath the house and yard had caused the deck to basically "give up" as the earth pulled it in several directions at once, including, east, south, north and straight up. Yes, it was like a slow motion ride on the Wild Mouse. Of course the people who LIVED in the house got used to it, deftly negotiating the uneven terrain with the surefootedness of sherpa guides. Everyone else, however, was risking a sprained ankle, twisted knee or re-calibrated spine if they were not careful. With this sort of history, naturally my parents like to throw "Deck Parties." After all, what good is a deck if others can't enjoy the crazily careening backyard scenery with you? Why eat your delicious meal in the boring indoors when you can risk losing it on the lawn, having it slither from the plate onto your lap and then through the slats of the deck, or better yet shared with every winged insect on our side of the street? This year was no different. As soon as we committed to our Buffalo trip, my mother immediately began hatching plans for the Family Deck Party. There was a twist this year, though, one none of us was expecting. You see I haven't mentioned this before, but my sister's boyfriend Carl is EXTREMELY HANDY. I would even go so far as to say he is quite talented in a way that those of us who have trouble applying contact paper to anything can't understand. He doesn't run screaming from the sight of tools. He not only knows which tool is which, but also what they are used for. He can somehow force ordinary "objects" to take on the properties of "building materials" and "fix and create things." Really, it's like watching the Miracle of Life. None of us understands how he does it, but we remain in a state of awe. So Carl apparently volunteered to "fix the deck." Haha! Of course you can't just plunge into a job that way at my parents' house. First they must tell you of the zillion and one reasons why It Can't Be Done. Whether it's the shape of the house, the angle of the land, the position of the horizon in the sky relative to their property, the mysterious drain tile, a "crossbeam" that cannot be interfered with or the entire house will collapse into the cellar, there is always a reason why projects cannot be undertaken. But Carl is a patient man, he listened to all these reasons and more, including my parents' vow to simply cut the deck loose from the house to allow it to drift south to Orchard Park. He nodded at all these explanations and declarations. Then he told them he was going to do it anyway. He couldn't be stopped! They would have to get a restraining order against him if they wanted to prevent him from finally correcting the Cat In the Hat quality presented by the deck. My father could either leap on his back and try to wrest the tools from him, or simply get out of the way. There was no middle ground. Fast forward to our vacation. By the time we arrived in Buffalo the deck was finished. When I stepped outside to admire it, I almost twisted my knee. It no longer lurched up in all the wrong places! My body simply wasn't used to walking on a surface that was level and did not play visual tricks with your mind. I staggered around drunkenly, trying to retrain myself. The deck was now firmly attached to both the house and the ground with no hidden gaps. There was no longer a "trick railing" that caused people to fall directly to the lawn if they attempted to lean on it. I can only say that the experience was bizarre. So naturally this made the Deck Party weird for my relatives, too, who were used to having to wear protective gear to my parents' house. The party itself was held on a sunny afternoon during the middle of Buffalo's heatwave. My cousins' children (and there were many many many of them) were scattered all over the lawn playing games and running through sprinklers. There were shrieks of delight. My 6-year-old spent almost the entire time playing wiffle ball with interchangeable groups of cousins. We let them make up their own Yard Rules with no adult interference! I do believe it was the first time my son experienced Pure Childhood of the sort I remembered where kids made the rules and picked the teams, while adults basically ignored them unless someone started bleeding. Still. It was a DECK PARTY. Something had to go wrong. Perhaps some of you remember the story I told about all the neighborhood bees deciding to eat my father's famous shrimp cocktail sauce. Well those bees were just awaiting their party invitation. However due to the kiddie nature of this party, there WAS no shrimp cocktail. The bees were a little disgruntled at that. But still willing to come to the party. When the first ones arrived, my mother frowned at them. My mother had previously covered every available surface of the deck, plus fogged the yard with an extremely potent poison. (Note to cousins with children: This was poisonous to bugs only. Otherwise it can be used as a dessert topping.) She imagined this would be enough to deter the bees, but of course she was wrong. It was only enough to deter my father, who glared at her from inside the house. Don't ask me what happened to last year's Plastic Tower of Death. Perhaps it was too successful and my parents got rid of it. Anyway, I don't recall who made this year's suggestion. It must be one of those weird internet remedies or old wives' tales that sound interesting but have no basis in truth. The solution was DRYER SHEETS. You know, those fragrant squares you get in the laundry aisle and toss into your dryer? Well apparently bees hate them. Enough to avoid your party if there are enough dryer sheets in the vicinity. Does that sound even remotely plausible? I thought not. That's why all the adults in the backyard were seated on the deck with drink in one hand, and dryer sheet in the other. As bees circled overhead, deciding whose plate of food looked most delicious. And I have to be honest about one thing. The dryer sheets were NOT totally useless. You could WAVE at the bees with them, causing the bees to bother the next person rather than you. Everyone was waving their white dryer sheets. We looked like we were on a giant wooden ship and perhaps the neighbors were threatening to fire their backyard cannons at us. So we were trying to surrender en masse. It was a lovely party. Particularly if you were one of the kids gleefully enjoying the games in the backyard. But part of me misses the old deck. When things start appearing too normal I start wondering if I belong in that particular scenery. Carl is slowly transforming all the flaws in my parents' house. Once he finishes you know what will have to happen. FOR SALE.

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