Friday, December 16, 2011

Ordinarily Extraordinary

Sometimes the most ordinary, mundane things can turn into extraordinary moments. What was one of your most extraordinary ordinary moments this year?

About half-way through the summer I needed a relaxing weekend away from the craziness of Buffalo and work and... everything. At the same time, my cousins were making plans to head to our family's camp in the Southern Tier. It's always a great time at camp. It's in the middle of nowhere, so there's no outside interruptions. Other than the occasional wild animal that comes wandering through. I was looking forward to a weekend of amazing food cooked on the grill (or smoker), great conversations, and lots of card playing and beer drinking. I needed this.

But the day before we left, my cousin informed me that our time at camp would be a "working weekend." At first I was going to back out. I wanted to just relax. I didn't want to work. But then I thought of all the weekends over the years that I went to camp and didn't do anything but eat, drink and sleep. I used my uncles' camp for an escape from everything. So I owed my uncles a weekend of work. They deserved it. They earned it. And besides, it was still camp. Once the sun went down, my cousins and I would be able to unwind and relax and get up to our usual shenanigans.

The problem is that I don't know anything about doing manual labor. Not the kind of manual labor that we would be doing down at camp. My uncle was planning on putting an addition onto his cabin. This job was more than I could handle. I can fake it when it comes to splitting wood or rebuilding a picnic table, but building something that needs to hold people and not fall over when the first gust of wind comes is more than I am capable of doing. In my life, working with my hands includes stapling papers together, making photo copies, washing dishes, or cooking. And as much as I can assimilate into a camper and someone who is comfortable in nature, my family all know that I wear a tie to work and they all know I don't know a damn thing about building anything that doesn't come with an Allen Wrench.

I may be a teacher and I may have great writing skills and I may know when to use the word "whom," but that doesn't make me a better person than someone who drives an eighteen wheeler or a school bus for a living. My uncles are giant men. And they're patient. They showed me what to do and how to do it. And we all worked together and by the end of the weekend we had that addition built. To my cousins and my aunts and uncles it probably wasn't a big deal, but to me it was extraordinary. My cousins and uncle were standing on the roof! And it didn't collapse! Just as we were finishing the rain came, and the building stayed standing. It didn't fall over. It didn't wash away. It stayed standing.

Now don't get me wrong-- I wasn't in charge of deciding how long the 2x6s needed to be. I wasn't in charge of leveling the ground under the addition. I wasn't in charge of cutting the wood. But I carried and picked up huge piles of wood that would eventually be the foundation of the addition. I held the wood that would eventually be the walls as they were cut. I screwed and nailed the 2x6s to the foundation. I was a part of putting this thing together and making sure it was sturdy. And this cabin isn't going anywhere.

Through all the highs and lows I had this year, this weekend was definitely one of the highs. I was proud of myself. I used real tools. I wore work gloves. I got dirty and sweaty. I helped build something with my hands. A weekend that started out as an ordinary relaxing weekend turned into an extraordinary weekend.

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