Earning the right to vacation

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By Kirsten Laskey

Up through last week, my mother had reminded everyone in the family just how many days of school remained in the 2009-2010 year. When Sunday rolled around, she sang out to everyone that she did not have to work this week.

If you think students are the only ones who excitedly cross the days off the calendar, think again. A vacation is a vacation – no matter one’s age.

And with the conclusion of one school year and the beginning of a tranquil break, it seemed a celebration was in order.

So a plastic tablecloth with a turquoise flower border was spread on the table and a paper flower chain with accordion lanterns was hung across the window.

Cups were filled with lemonade, my mother made her potato salad – the best potato salad one could ever eat – and my father fired up the grill to barbecue some steaks.

My sister’s children blew into soapy wands in hopes fragile, iridescent bubbles would be produced.

Sunday afternoon had all the ingredients for the ideal summer day. My sister’s daughter flung her sandals off in favor of feeling the grass underneath her bare feet and her oldest son filled up his newest water-squirting toy for a test run.

But even the most idyllic days come with some effort.

Despite summer break just barely getting started, my mother has already written up a lengthy to-do list and by the end of Sunday, she could already cross one thing off the list – install the kitchen range hood.

When my parents moved into their house – an enormous wooden box, which served as the kitchen’s ventilation system, descended over the stove. It was torn down and for months, the stub of a metal tube jutted cockeyed from the ceiling.

My mother was not the only one going crazy from the sight of this unfinished project – my father was determined to finish what he started.

It appeared that in order to attend the Sunday soiree, lending a hand with the new range hood was mandatory. And although I came an hour early, my father had already flung a blue plastic tarp over the stove and spread out his tools.

The skeleton of the range hood was the first to go up. It took some shuffling of positions between the three of us – my father, mother and I – to get it right. First it was my mother and I on either side of the stove and my father on the ladder. Then it was my mother at the front of the stove, me on a kitchen chair and my father on the counter. Then it was my father and I both on the counter and my mother smartly staying on solid ground.

My father and I took turns ratcheting in the bolts to secure the inner component to the range hood and a round of high-fives was distributed for a job well done. Until it was discovered another piece to the range hood needed to be fitted into the skeleton before it was installed in the ceiling.

Bolts were loosened, the monster was hauled down, the metal tube was slid in, and up everything went to be reattached to the ceiling.

The electrical portion was next – a laborious affair where my father worked hard to place a piece of copper wire that appeared to be the width of a strand of thread, underneath a screw. I shined a flashlight onto the small, dim electrical niche so he could see what he doing - feeling a little like the Statue of Liberty holding her torch high and guiding those who struggled and suffered to achieve their goals.  

Although unlike this famous sculpture, I am not too sure how much help my flashlight holding efforts really offered.

Around this time, my sister and her children arrived – her husband, lucky for him, had to work Sunday.

While the kids played, the adults continued onward with the installation project. The outer metal sleeves to the range hood were screwed in and my father and I both fought with the sticky protective paper. Pulling the thick paper away revealed the polished silver chrome of the range hood’s exterior.

The final piece was the actual hood.

As far as range hoods go, I have to say this one is pretty impressive.

It has halogen lights and a variety of fan and lighting options.

It is also heavy. It took all four of us, but it was held high, screwed down and plugged in.

We all stepped back to admire the finished project.

It is a fine testament to the Laskey family’s efforts.

Plus, it released us to play with the little kids and eat lunch.

After installing the range hood, I can understand why the summer months mean

so much to my mother.

After a lot of work, it is good to kick back on the hammock on a lazy summer afternoon – feeling pride for what was accomplished and an eagerness for the reward for that effort, a nice long vacation.