Tete-a-tete Archives

An eclectic sampling of my award-winning humor columns. New columns can be read online at www.nashuatelegraph.com on the first Thursday of the month, with columns posted here later in the month.

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Tete-a-tete: Feats of strength aren’t just for Festivus festivities

Many hands make light work, and this is especially true when it comes to moving heavy items. However, as anyone who has ever enlisted the aid of family members to do so can attest, there’s always one person who carries less than his or her fair share of the load.

Such was the case when Mom, Younger Sister and I put up the Christmas tree this holiday season.

Usually, the manhandling of the Christmas tree is handled by, well, the men of the family. Due to busy family schedules, the Santoski ladies ended up taking on the responsibility this year, and Mom bought a tree in the middle of one of the December snowstorms after picking Younger Sister up from school.

Mom and Younger Sister managed to drag the tree – a seven-foot balsam – into the house by themselves, but they needed my assistance to get it into the stand. Younger Sister and I were charged with lifting the tree so Mom could maneuver the stand into place beneath it.

I was still searching for a handhold amongst the branches when Mom announced that she was in position.

“Ready, Tres?” Younger Sister asked. “One, two, three, lift!”

I wasn’t ready, actually, but it didn’t seem to matter. I had barely opened my mouth to protest when Younger Sister hoisted the tree into the air all by her lonesome with surprising ease.

Mom managed to get the stand under the tree and told us we could rest the tree on the stand for a moment. With a grunt of effort, Younger Sister did so.

After a brief rest, Mom told us to prepare to lift the tree again.

“OK, are you ready?” Younger Sister asked me, and counted up to liftoff.

By this time, I was laughing so hard, no sound was coming out, and there was no way I could calm myself in time to assist Younger Sister. She hefted the tree on her own once again, rising up on her toes in order to lift it high enough to settle it into the stand.

“What happened there, Teresa?” Mom asked. “You’re taller than your sister. Why did she have to stand on her toes like that?”

My lack of response prompted Mom and Younger Sister to peer around the other side of the tree. Seeing me convulsed with laughter, tears pouring down my face, they quickly realized I hadn’t been carrying my weight.

Eventually, I regained my composure enough to wave aside their chastisements and explain what had happened. Though Younger Sister expressed her dissatisfaction that I had let her do all the heavy lifting, I believe she was secretly impressed that she was capable of picking up an entire tree all by herself.

I redeemed myself – at least, I’d like to think so – during the next phase of the Christmas tree setup process: straightening the tree. Mom tightened and loosened the grippers that held the tree in its stand, Younger Sister held the tree upright and tilted it as needed, and I checked the tree from every conceivable angle to make certain it was straight. This part of the undertaking was a true team effort.

Mom and I then spent a good chunk of the remainder of the day pulling balsam needles out of the Berber carpet – they get tangled in the loops of the carpet’s pile and the vacuum cleaner isn’t strong enough to pull them out – and mopping puddles off the hall floor. When you buy a Christmas tree in the middle of a snowstorm and drag it into your warm home, all that snow and ice covering the tree doesn’t remain snow and ice for long.

Younger Sister, feeling – perhaps rightly so – that she had already made her contribution, decided to opt out of this part of the process. Though Mom was not particularly amused, I didn’t really mind, as small-scale cleaning and organizing projects are one of my fortes.

Whether it’s putting up a Christmas tree, working on a last-minute school project or walking through heartache, families do a lot of heavy lifting. Depending on the situation, every member isn’t always capable of pulling his or her own weight.

It’s all about knowing your strengths and, likewise, knowing when you can carry a little more of the load and when you might need someone to carry you.

And if you’re ever in need of the latter, I’ll let you borrow Younger Sister. Seeing as she barely broke a sweat lifting a conifer as tall as an NBA player, an actual person should be no problem.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Jan. 2, 2014.

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