“Whatever works for you honey. You’re smart. You’ll know when it’s right,” Grandma said, pulling out the last of the cardboard boxes from the spare bedroom. “Help me carry these downstairs, will you?”
We descended with the last of the Christmas decorations and deposited them in the foyer along with the mountains of other boxes. My grandparents had devoted most of a third floor bedroom to storing the assorted Christmas paraphernalia.
“Your grandpa still insists on getting everything ready for the workers, but he must have missed these last few boxes.” She turned and smiled at my grandpa who was supervising a few young men. Someone in the town had wisely come up with a seasonal business of setting up people’s Christmas lights and other holiday doodads and hit pay dirt when my grandma and grandpa wisely decided that they were no longer up to the task of decorating their huge home. I recognized Troy, one of my former students, and he offered a quick wave and a lopsided grin as he continued to decorate. I’m glad he was able to pick up some part-time work.
“Your mom picked up the garlands yesterday. Don’t they smell amazing?” Grandma asked.
I watched Troy begin to loop the garlands up the stair railing. Another boy I didn’t recognize began to follow him with a string of lights. My grandparents’ house would be magnificent yet again.
“Eliza,” my grandpa called to me. “Help steady that ladder, please.” He motioned with his cane to the ladder that rose to the double high ceiling of the foyer. A worker was busy at the top, but looked pretty solid to me. Thank goodness Grandpa had begrudgingly decided to outsource the actual decorating, even if he still needed to be in charge.
“Sure Grandpa,” I responded as I held on to the ladder. Grandma grabbed the other side.
“You know though,” she said thoughtfully, referring to our conversation upstairs, “sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your handsome prince.”
I laughed. “If you could give me a rough estimate of how many, I might be more inclined to start up again.” I was happy with my decision to give my love life a rest. I felt I’d kissed enough frogs already. “Anyway, I don’t really need a prince. I’m not sure what kind of princess I’d make.”
We continued to steady the ladder as the worker finished and began to descend. I stepped back as he reached the last few rungs.
I had been expecting a teenager, maybe even one I knew, but this man looked to be in his 30’s. “Eliza, let me introduce you to Harry Simmons. I think you know his brother Ralph who owns the lumberyard. Harry just moved to town and is going to supervise Ralph’s Christmas set-up business for now.”
I reached to shake Harry’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you. I worked with Ralph when we put together the sets for the school play, but I didn’t know he started the Christmas business.”
Harry smiled genially at me. His hand was calloused and I noticed his curly dark hair was dusted with silver glitter.
“Nice to meet you too. Eliza, is it?”
“That’s right. I’m an English teacher at the high school. I helped design sets for the play last spring. Ralph was great to work with.”
“Ralph is a great guy, I’m glad I’m getting to spend some time with him now that I’m in town.”
Grandma interrupted. “Thanks for hanging the mistletoe, Harry.” I looked at my grandma who flashed me an enormous grin. I grimaced and then hesitatingly looked up. Grandma had caught Harry and me in a mistletoe bull’s-eye. “Looks like you two get to inaugurate it this year,” she said in her most encouraging voice. “It’s tradition.”
I couldn’t believe I had been snared for the first time in years. It was just barely after Thanksgiving; my defenses weren’t up yet. I could feel my face turning red and my heart thud with embarrassment. Please don’t let him be married or something I thought as I glanced at his left hand. All clear. Harry anxiously stuffed his hands in his pockets, bounced on the balls of his feet and shrugged as I looked at him. Better to take charge and get this over with, I thought. I would concede this victory to Grandma. I stepped forward, stood on tiptoe and gave Harry a quick peck on the lips.
My grandpa, Troy and his co-worker broke into applause. “Ms. Turner,” Troy drawled in typical teenage-boy fashion and flashed me a thumb’s up from the stairs.
Awesome. All I needed was an audience.
“I guess that will have to do,” Grandma harrumphed. “You’ve been busy for hours Harry. Are you ready for a break? I have some eggnog in the kitchen.”
Check back tomorrow for more of Eliza's adventures with the mistletoe!