December 25, 2007

2007 Christmas: Four College Graduates Take On a Stupid Tree

After getting up way too early (as previously noted), the festivities kicked off in earnest around 9, when my wife started up an unbeatable brunch, complete with eggs, bacon, and homemade blueberry muffins. With the home full of good smells, my parents and youngest sister arrived, fresh off a 2-hour ride from Sacramento, their first time holding Christmas with us in the Bay Area. They ended up staying a full, eventful, eight hours.

As much fun as it is to receive gifts, it's even better to give, as we all know. This year, my wife was the recipient of a new suit (and matching skirt), our first camcorder (a Sony), dog calendars of the twelve-month and 365 day desk calendar variety, a new blue sweater, and a working cellphone, on Verizon. While I wasn't as giving with the rest of the family, we did get them a handful of games, both for playing with us, and with one another. As for me, I mostly gained a few items from my Amazon wish list.

But the hit of the day was the inexpensive remote control airplane I got my dad (similar to this one), still a kid at the young age of fifty-four.

We took the airplane out to a local elementary school, practicing take-offs and landings, and got some good air, but the winds were too gusty, and too many obstacles spelled certain death for the new toy. So the five of us packed into the car and headed to the football field at Palo Alto High School with the goal of a more successful venture. Yet, no sooner than we arrived did we find more trouble.

After seeing the plane bump, bump its way into a few false starts, we would start the motor as I threw it aloft, and into flight. On our second try, it spun, spiraling ever higher and further away, as my dad guided it through the sky. Eventually, it was out of reach of the remote control signal, and kept going despite my dad's shouts. Sure enough, it came to rest in a tree on the opposite side of the fence, a good 20 feet into the air, nearly obscured by branches.

We made our way to the crash site and eventually spotted the plane, but had no easy way to get it down. The tree was unclimbable, and as my dad got on the roof of one of the school's portable classrooms, he could not shake the limb to dislodge the plane. From below, I threw tennis balls, but could do no damage. Later, we moved upwards to throwing a softball, which would more likely hit a branch and make me cower below than anything else. Then, I found a soccer ball, and started to throw it toward the plane. No luck.

Sure enough, the soccer ball too got stuck. Then, so did the softball. For those scoring at home, we now had four college graduates, and a college senior staring at a tree with a plane and two balls stuck in its branches. What to do? I looked around and found a thick stick I could throw javelin style, at the plane, or the soccer ball. It stuck too. That led to a 2 by 4 plank of plywood, which after a few tosses, made its way into the tree, making the score one plane, two balls and two planks of wood for the tree, and nothing for us.

At this point, my mom and my wife took off to go get a ladder, laughing at our foolishness. But we didn't give up. I dislodged the plank of wood, and later, the softball, and after just swearing the softball would be useless, I hit the branch holding the plane, and it fluttered down to us below, making the endeavor a success. At this point, I'm plenty dirty and sweating a little. My hands have splinters. The soccer ball is still up there, as far as I know. My dad is on the cell phone, calling my mom to abort "Operation: Ladder Retrieval". It turned out that the actual search for the plane was more fun than flying the plane had proven to be, and we can all laugh about it now. My wife and mom returned, shaking their heads at us, as we piled in the car, and headed home, swearing the next time that plane flies, there will be no wind, and no trees, period.

Coming home, we battled one another on the Nintendo Wii, alternating bowling with tennis, and said our goodbyes. It wasn't a textbook Christmas, but the silliness and togetherness made it even better than had it been scripted. I hope that you too enjoyed your Christmas, and that you aren't one to leave that plane behind when it seems even two sticks, two balls and a little sweat won't get the job done.

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