So there’s a bunch of things that apartment-dwelling city people don’t take to naturally — driving a mini van for one; clearing snow from a driveway that we don’t have for another; and trimming trees for a third. And it’s this last one that came into play just this weekend, as the overgrown (read three-story) shrubs outside our bedroom windows had to be snipped.
Yes, it’s usually something the building’s landscapers would handle but no, that didn’t look like it was going to happen, so B. and I decided to take the matter (the branches, really) into our own hands. But not without some expert advice, and for that I turned to a dear friend who is a former professional tree trimmer extraordinaire and all-around terrific guy. (When he heard my account of what is known as my Woody Woodpecker sighting a few years ago (wood-a, coulda, shoulda), he fell on the floor laughing and then set me straight on how not all woodpeckers resemble Woody).
The advice he gave me was clear. After approving a photo of the cutting tool we already owned (neither B. nor I have any idea of how or why we even own it), our friend explained that B. should hold the cutting tool with the blade facing the direction in which he would be cutting. My role in this little drama was crucial. “Put your hands in B.’s waistband and hold on to him. You don’t want him to fall out the window.” And then, in a more ominous tone, “Believe me. I’ve seen it happen.” Okay then.
Other advice included attaching the tool to B.’s belt loop with a shoelace so that if he dropped it, it wouldn’t fly down three stories and hit anything in the tiny locked alley below. And to be sure that the aforementioned shoelace extended past the window of the apartment below ours so that if B. dropped the cutter, it wouldn’t swing into the glass. Oy.
All this you say, for a few branches? Well, yes. While we love the greenery — and there is plenty of it remaining outside our windows — this group of branches totally obscured our view of the Hollywood hills (to say nothing of it feeling like my workspace was being smothered behind a wall of leaves).
So, instructions in mind, our adventure began. And then hit a snag immediately. B.’s weekend workload of paper- and exam-grading is heavy, so I had been surprised when he suggested, in the midst of it, that then would be a good time to trim the trees. When he did, I jumped at the chance, albeit forgetting for a moment that I had been right in the middle of something else. “Oh no! The meatballs!” came to me, Lucy-style, at the exact moment that B. was already leaning out the window, branches in one hand, cutter in the other, my hands in his waistband (I giggle every time I write that part).
As if on cue, the oven timer began to ring, reminding me to turn the temperature of the baking meatballs up to “broil” to make them brown and crispy on the outside. What to do? What to do? “Hold it!” I said after the first snip, after the first bunch of branches had been pulled inside and into a trash bag, and after B. was safely and 100% back within the window frame.
I dashed to the kitchen, took the meatballs from the oven, and stood there, my mind in “what would Lucy do and how can I avoid that?” overdrive. I knew that I couldn’t set the oven to “broil” and then walk away (you have to watch those meatballs every minute or else the little suckers can burn). But I also knew that I didn’t want to keep B. from getting back to grading for any longer than necessary. So, in the spirit of some of history’s most solemn choices — Thick crust or thin? What’s behind door #1 or what’s behind door #2? Ginger or Mary Ann? — I chose trees over meatballs and headed back to my hero husband who awaited my return.
We did great with the branches that were close enough to reach; however, there were a couple that were just a bit too far. Until I had an idea — a wire hanger straightened out with its hook still in place. It worked — those couple of stubborn branches were ours! But then yet another bunch loomed, even farther away. And, like that piece of pound cake that you just have to slice away to even out the rest of the loaf, we absolutely had to have it.
I am proud to say that I then MacGyvered the s**t out of the situation. I got my handy roll of duct tape (a girl’s best friend for situations just like this), a second straightened-out wire hanger, and voilà! After I taped the two hangers together, B. reached out with the contraption, and, like magic, we owned that final annoying cluster of branches.
About one half-hour, two full trashbags, and three major hugs of self-congratulation later (and a quick vacuuming of the bedroom carpet), we emerged victorious. (The meatballs, having been returned to the oven for broiling, emerged delicious).
© 2019 Claudia Grossman