“Oh no,” said Josie, as she opened up one box, labeled, ‘Careful: breakables.’
“What’s up?” I asked, although I was more focused upon the positioning of a decoration that had Snoopy resting on top of a large cherry cheesecake—a Christmas gift from an old friend that I had lost touch with but still thinking of fondly every time I hang that particular decoration.
“Look at this,” she said, tilting the box sideways in order for me to take a look inside. “Someone had the bright idea to pack the candy canes in with the breakables.”
I finished hanging Snoopy and moved towards her to look inside. Sure enough, the candy canes had melted during the summer, and the box’s interior had been transformed into one thoroughly inedible confection: a lumpy glob of melted sugar, toilet paper, and, buried somewhere in the interior, twenty or so of our favourite Christmas bulbs.
“Can we tear it apart?” I asked.
“We can try,” she replied.
I nodded and went back to positioning bulbs.
After about five minutes she groaned and cried out in frustration, “It’s no use.”
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “You’ve saved three or four, right?” In fact, I had just hung up one of the gold bulbs, although I had taken some time to rub off a pile of coagulated toilet paper through a combination of spit and polish.
“Yes, but I’ve broken a bunch, too,” she complained, pushing the box aside and shaking her head. She looked like a giant bumblebee, all dressed in yellow, with fuzzy slippers on and her nipples pointing out from the shirt, since she wasn’t wearing a bra.
“Let me take a look,” I replied, and moved over to lend a hand.
We changed places. I grabbed the interior of the box and lifted it out. It resembled papier mache, only covered in gumdrops. Grabbing the middle firmly, I tried breaking the mass apart with both hands. The upper left gave way and splintered off from the rest of the mess. I placed the main glob down and started to pick at this smaller section, which clearly only contained one ornament. The toilet paper was stubborn, however, and would not budge. Darn. I didn’t want to break another bulb.
Then I thought about the combination of spit and polish. I wondered whether I could apply that solution to the bigger problem.
“Well, yes,” I thought. “Perhaps if I put it under the sink and poured warm water over it….”
I moved to the sink, taking with me the smaller piece of congealed goo. Sure enough, the paper started to slide away, as the sugar structure that held everything together lost its grip and deteriorated into a soggy mass of thin paper and syrupy water. The gumdrops fell to the bottom of the sink and in my hands I held a bright red bulb.
“Success!” I cried out. “See, all it took was a little bit of ingenuity.”
“I don’t have the patience for ingenuity,” replied Josie.
I walked over to larger glob and walked it over the sink, then set about to the task of freeing the other Christmas bulbs, trapped in their mummified cocoons.
See, this is the thing, I thought to myself. There’s something to be said here. This is something we can apply. A lot of times we’re confronted with a problem that appears to be impossible to resolve. But if you just sit down and think about it, take a few chances, try a few off-the-wall solutions, sometimes you realize that the solution isn’t that impossible after all.
I walked back to the kitchen table, pleased with myself, and presented the fruits of my labours to Josie.
“Here you go,” I announced.
“They need to be dried off,” she replied.
“Yes,” I said. “But they’re intact. I’ll go get a towel.”
I moved back to the sink to get a towel. As I looked into the sink, my elevated spirits collapsed, quicker than the sugar structure doused with hot water.
Two inches of murky water lay at the bottom of the sink, paper shreds swimming all about. I reached into the sink and tried to yank them out, but it was like trying to grab at a goldfish in a bowl. I had clogged up the sink.
I remember when I was a kid, I used to be a big fan of a series of books about “Katie John,” this precocious little ten-year-old brat who was always getting herself into trouble at the boardinghouse that her parents ran. In one episode, Katie John had set about to shoveling snow from driveways for money, and thought she had come upon a quick solution that would save her time and effort—simply run the hose over the driveway and watch the snow wash away.
The only problem was, the water turned to ice, and Katie John discovered that she had created a bigger problem than she had started out with.
Well, my problem wasn’t nearly that bad, but it did take me a half an hour to unclog the drain.
Still, the rescued bulbs look pretty. And I still contend that anything can be resolved with just a dash of inspiration.