I lied to that man on the airplane to Zihauntenajo (see Birth of the Vixen Divorcee). I told a blatant lie when I pretended to be Blanche Dubois in Streetcar Named Desire. “Ah have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” I said.
What a disastrous way to live a life that would be. What a sad, frail, ineffectual creature Blanche was.
No, my truth is far different. I have always depended on the kindness of friends.
How about starting with my recent run-in with the nine-foot-tall Norfolk Island Pine sitting in my kitchen. The plant grew so big in the summer that no one could sit at my table except me. My upstairs sitting room would give it more space and light.
I carried it inside from the patio by myself at the end of the summer. Surely with all my weight lifting and yoga I could get it up 32 stairs. Of course I could.
I lifted it out of its big ceramic cache pot. No problem.
I carried it through the kitchen. Feeling strong.
I made it through the dining room and the living room. Piece of cake.
I climbed one step. Two steps. Three steps. Oh, the joy of having muscles.
On the fourth step, the top of the tree collided with the ceiling over the staircase. I ascended to the fifth step, but the top of the tree stayed right where it was. My attempts to dislodge it only exaggerated gravity’s hold on the top branches, and all nine feet of my tree tilted back down over the fourth, third, second and first steps.
A little dirt dribbled out of the pot onto the fourth step of creamy white wool carpeting. With one foot on the fifth step, the other on the fourth, and the tree almost parallel to the floor, I struggled to get the top of it upright again. My struggles loosened more soil, which was now forming a small mound on the creamy white carpeting on the third and fourth steps.
I froze in place. I fought, with muscles and mind, against the inevitability of the situation, against acknowledging that, while strong enough to lift and carry this well-loved tree, I’m not strong enough to counter the awkwardness of its size.
I stood, immobilized, one foot still on the fourth step, the other still on the fifth step. I wondered how long I could hold this pose, my own distorted version of a yogic warrior two. Maybe two hours? Maybe until Liz, my favorite mail carrier, showed up at my door?
I pictured her staring at me from my doorstep, her eyes and mouth open wide in disbelief. What would she think? What could she do?
That scenario would get me nowhere. I had to bend to the inevitable. No way out but down. I tipped the tree as I descended, dirt pouring out on the fourth, third, second and first steps.
On the level floor again, I set the pot down. Almost no soil anchored those roots now. Piles of it lay on my once-creamy carpet.
I ran for the phone in the kitchen, dialed a well-known number. Peter was home. Whew! He’d be over in ten minutes.
He arrived with vacuum cleaner and hose attachment in hand. I’d just thrown all my attachments out the month before, after not using them in eight years. Isn’t that the way it always works?
In his masterful, calm, capable way, he assessed the situation. “No broken bones, right?”
I shook my head, “No, no broken bones.”
“Even the tree is fine, right? We can add more dirt. No problem.”
Right, we could add more dirt.
“And Georgia, you’re not even crying. I could hear from your voice on the phone you were close, but you’re not there. It’ll all be okay.”
I didn’t really believe him then, but I nodded my head, “Yes, everything will be okay.”
He decided that sweeping up the loose dirt would be the best first step, so out came brooms, dust pan and garbage bag. Second step was to plug in the vacuum with attachment and hose up the rest, so we wouldn’t grind it in.
Then Peter picked up the nine-foot-tall tree, that tree that did me in, and carried it up all 32 stairs, as if he were carrying nothing heavier than a tea cup.
As his wife, Marlys, says, “That man’s an ox.”
Later that afternoon I borrowed friend Carrie’s steam cleaner. She even sent me off provided with an entire bottle of carpet cleaner.
I can still see the shadow of the dirt on my creamy wool carpet. I doubt anyone else would. Thanks to the kindness of my friends.