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community Otter Creek

Murphy visits for the Fourth of July

All across America July Fourth is celebrated with flags proudly flying, fireworks, parades and picnics. In Otter Creek the stars and stripes line the street at one home, red white and blue streamers festoon the door of another. The long weekend is also a time for getting the lawn mown, a trip to the beach, and catching up on household projects. Americans can cram a lot into three days. In the spirit of not wasting a minute, I planned to decorate for the Fourth, build an arbor, see fireworks, paint the back basement hatch cover, bike, swim, boat out to a lobsterfest, and picnic with friends. This of course was in addition to the daily routine of weeding, watering and planting that maintaining a garden requires. It could all have been handled quite comfortably, if only Murphy hadn’t come to visit.

The weekend started with dinner on an island, then a long Saturday morning bike ride. Then it was time to tackle a project. The basement hatch is old and wooden, and while it really needs more than a coat of paint, I wanted it spruced up for the weekend. Scraped, swept and washed down, I cut in the edges with glossy black oil paint, and quickly had it looking shiny and fresh. I switched the laundry, cut fresh flowers for the house, came back out and looked at the gravel and grit on the doormat. There was a broom right at hand, so I did a quick left and right sweep, then stilled the broom as I saw a spray of tiny bits land and stick to the side of the hatch. No easy fix, it would have to dry, get sanded and repainted. I moved on.

Summer had started late this year, and because of the cool days, we hadn’t yet put the screen insert on the front door. I had hauled it over to the front steps weeks ago; it was time to put it in. Leaves and grass and pollen had landed on the screen, and I decided it would be easiest to sweep it off after I placed it in the doorframe. I removed the winter glass, and positioned the screen and clipped it in. The pollen began to fall on my face, my arms and my legs, and then it was moving, no, it was crawling all over me. A spider had laid its eggs there, and what seemed like thousands of tiny spiders were swarming on me. After frantic jumping around, head shaking and swatting, I swept the door off and headed in to hang some red white and blue bunting out the upstairs window. This is something I have done for the past three or four years, and is a really easy way to dress up the house. I unsnapped the first screen and pushed it away from the frame about an inch. I began to feed the long strip of fabric out the window with the other hand, when the screen detached from the top of the window. The screen is about four and a half feet tall, and it wobbled in my hand, gravity calling it to drop two stories to the ground below. I did not want it bent or broken so grabbed it with both hands. The banner slipped out and landed, forming a drape across the yellow daylilies beside the door that had given a nesting spider a home. I tried to pull the screen through the window, but it wouldn’t fit. There I squatted, arms out the window holding this big screen.

I used my head and shoulder to push the window open wide enough to maneuver the screen inside. I retrieved the banner, and tried again. This time I had a plan. I would hold the banner inside by pressing against it with my belly, and use both hands to get the window in its upper track. Then I would pull the screen towards me, where it would connect with the banner, and I could clip it in, firmly holding the banner in place between the screen and the bottom edge of the window frame. This was working. The screen teetered, but I pressed it into the top track. Slowly I pulled the bottom toward me to get it completely in the track. The phone rang, I exhaled, my stomach moved, the banner slipped out, slid between the screen and the window edge and landed on the yellow day lilies below.

I got the darn banner, and put it in place. The second one would have to wait.

While upstairs I emptied the wastebasket, tying the little plastic liner bag tightly. I went down, opened the back door and tossed it outside. It would go in the trashcan when I put my shoes on and went out next. The bag was very light, and hit the edge of the step and bounced up. It bounced a bit sideways, too, and stuck, hanging, on the side of the hatch cover, glued to the sticky wet paint just above the grit and gravel bits. “If it can go wrong it will,” is the adage popularized as Murphy’s Law. Yep.

It is with relief I heard my husband said friends had invited us on their boat, and I have to stop work and get ready. We watch the sun set from the middle of Somes Sound, and sip wine as fireworks blaze above our heads. It is late when we are dropped at the dock. It is even later when Triple A gets there to jumpstart our dead battery.

July third: The arbor is finished; the hatch cover paint is dry. We have biked, boated, watched fireworks, weeded, and picnicked. It is Fourth of July Eve, and we are ready for the Fourth, in spite of Murphy. Happy Independence Day, America.