Look out for pop-up trees

  • Monday, April 1, 2013

God-smacked, karma, entertaining the angels, dancing with the devil, Murphy’s law. Call it what you will, I call it typical.

One sleepy morning a few weeks back, Don and I were sitting on the couch watching the morning news, a hypnotic drone to awaken gently while drinking coffee.

Anyday USA stuff, basically a comma or an occasional period placed on a story sucked dry from days/weeks/months earlier. And then... the host introduces Jonathan Gilliam, a former Navy SEAL who had the idea to start a program for vets searching for employment as nannies. I drank my coffee, listened. Mr. Gilliam and the news host introduced one of their prime candidates for the nanny vet program (titled Tactical Nannies).

I will condense the interview to get to the point of my own story. It started like this: “Ms. Smith, would you tell our audience what qualities you have as a veteran that would entice a family to hire you as their nanny?” he asked.

My coffee was getting lukewarm, I started thinking about getting up and reheating it.

The vet replied, “Well, the training that we have, for one thing.”

“And what would that training be, Ms. Smith?” the host asked.

“Well, we are trained to be aware of our surroundings. We do things like notice things that aren’t right, like a tree that wasn’t there before,” she answered.

Okay, it started with a chuckle. Then it was a giggle, and then Don started in and we were both cracking up. I started having visions of spies with cardboard cut-out trees in the parks. The gaffe didn’t go unnoticed and the news announcer switched over quickly to Mr. Gilliam but didn’t ask him to elaborate; he looked grateful.

But Don and I were still laughing. “Those damn pop-up trees will get you every time,” we giggled.

We do that sometimes, don’t we? Lose control laughing at inappropriate things at the expense of another person’s flaws or inadequacies? I mean here she was, an esteemed military servicewoman (of all people), and all I can think about is this fake tree shimmying from one place to the next.

And I did feel guilty. Both because she was a member of the military and because I knew that comment was going to follow this woman for a bit. Lord knows, I have provided endless material myself. Another twinge of guilt washed over me as I did the dishes. I thought back to a few of my Freudian slips.

One of my worst: Don had just received a promotion at work. We gathered the kids that evening and went to Red Lobster. We were sucking crab legs and slurping butter when, by chance, Don’s boss and his wife walked in.

They stopped as they were being led to a table near us, and we small-talked about the coincidence. His boss told us that they were celebrating his wife’s 50th birthday. What I meant to say was “Happy Birthday, You don’t look a day of it.” What came out was, “Happy Birthday, you look every day of it.”

I went back to slurping legs, then looked up quizzically to find the entire table and guests giving me the shocked face. The hostess led Don’s boss and wife away. My family told me what I said. I apologized, but it was apparent that the damage was done.

Dishes done, coffee finished, time to get this day on the move. Don went to bed (he was working third shift). I decided to run out to do chores. I noticed in the parking lot that I picked up the wrong keys and, rather than go back inside and retrieve my keys, I decided to take Don’s big truck.

A little later, I started backing out of this narrow drive that I shouldn’t have pulled into.

I was using the mirrors, but got too close to shrubs on the left side. I tried to correct when I heard a loud pop. I looked over and saw my right side view mirror hanging down.

What? A darn pop-up tree ripped it right off.

I stopped by Lowe’s on the way home to get some Gorilla glue. I was in the parking lot piecing the mirror together with a bungee cord, while squirting copious amounts of Gorilla glue onto it, all the while praying that I could make it look like it never happened.

My policeman neighbor noticed my pensive look as I headed back inside to get a towel to get the dripping glue off the mirror.

“You alright, Renae?” he asked.

I waved him on. “Nothing serious, just a pop-up tree,” I answered.

When Don woke up, I told him, “You know that pop-up tree we were laughing about this morning?”

He grinned. “Yes,” he says.

“Well, one popped up and took your right rearview mirror right off,” I explained sheepishly.

He stopped grinning.


And contrary to popular belief piddlin’ is not always leisure time. Piddlin’ can be anything from bush-hogging a field to snapping a bushel basket of green beans on the front porch. Visit Renae Brabham’s website at www.renaebrabham.com.


Editor’s Note: To learn more about columnist Renae Brabham, go to our home page and continue reading on 14A. Brabham recently won first place in the South Carolina Press Association 2012 News Contest in the online writing category.

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