We are currently studying Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol at school. It is one of my favourite pieces of literature and is from one of my favourite periods in history. Dickens was a masterful writer and wrote many other classics besides A Christmas Carol. After recently reading about Dickens and some snippets of his popular works, I was reminded of a little Dickensian episode that occurred many years ago. I was in university where I was trying to become an intellectual (fun fact: still trying). I had just discovered the Industrial Revolution and this amazing period of British history, when one day at home, the world of Dickens became real to me.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It was a tumultuous time in the Slingerland household. For some reason that is not known (well I’m sure there is a reason but I didn’t try to find out) it came to be that my two younger sisters, Ally and Becky, were to have their wisdom teeth pulled on the same day. Perhaps mother found a two-for-one coupon for wisdom teeth pulling. There was no doubt however, that this was going to be a traumatic event for the girls and for everyone in the home. Extensive preparations were made. A gigantic bed was made in the basement in front of the TV. Anne of Green Gables and Maria Von Trapp were on standby. Kleenex and pain killers were ready at the bedside. Jello and pudding were setting in the fridge.
The day of the appointment arrived and the girls headed out to the mini-van. Mom gave me some instructions before she shuttled the girls over to the doctor’s office. “When I get back, you’ll have to help me bring the girls into the house and down to the basement.” I told her that I would clear my schedule and do my brotherly duty. In truth, I was looking forward to some excitement and drama.
Later that day...
The mini-van pulled into the driveway and came to a halt by the front sidewalk. The garage door was opened remotely and Mom got out and went to the passenger side and opened the front door of the van. She put her hand around Ally’s shoulders and guided her to the house. Ally’s face was as white as snow, or as Dickens would say, ‘as white as the ghost of Christmas past’. Mom expertly steered Alison through the garage and into the house. I helped Mom from there and together we laid Ally down on the couch. Things looked pretty grim. I briefly thought about getting a pen and paper for a last will and testament. Her eyelids fluttered and her mouth was completely swollen. A solitary tear rolled down her face and then veered off to the side when it hit her chipmunk cheek.
Our thoughts turned to Becky. While I checked Ally’s pulse, Mom went back out to the van to get Becky. Mom slid the side door open and guided Becky out. I expected to see an ashen and morose Becky emerge from the van, but to my surprise, she just about rolled out of the van. Even more astonishing was that Becky was laughing hysterically. Mom propelled goofy Becky into the house and onto the other couch.
The girls eventually made their way down to their basement bed where they began to watch inordinate amounts of Anne of Green Gables. When that series was finished, The Sound of Music was slid into the overworked DVD player. The entire house was then treated to the yodelling of a lonely goat-herd.
The girls were not quite themselves throughout this healing process. Becky giggled, laughed, sniggered, cackled, chortled, chuckled, guffawed, and hooted her way to getting better over the next couple of days. Even when she was in pain, she was laughing. Ally sniveled, whimpered, bawled, sobbed, and wept her way to getting better. They made quite the pair – like yin and yang, black and white, or Bert and Ernie.
Besides the DVD’s, we did play a lot of Monopoly. Because I wasn’t on heavy pain killers, I had a bit of a mental edge on the girls.
“Hey Becky, look how pretty the purple stripe on Baltic Ave is! Why don’t you give me Marvin Gardens and I’ll give you Baltic.”
“Thanks Greg!” Becky giggled.
Alison mustered enough strength to give the dice a good toss. She was rewarded with the ‘free parking’ spot and the jackpot. As she collected her money, the ‘waterworks’ were turned on. “I don’t know why I’m crying!” she said.
Becky rolled the dice and moved the dog along the board. The dog stopped on my ‘Parkplace’, which also had a nice little hotel on it. I was pretty impressed with how Becky laughed it off. I was laughing too.
Both girls successfully recovered from the trauma of wisdom teeth extraction and were soon back to their normal selves. To the relief of everyone, Anne of Green Gables and Maria Von Trapp were put back into their cases and left to collect dust. It truly was the best and worst of times. The worst in that the girls experienced a lot of pain, Matthew from Anne of Green Gables died (by my count at least 7 times), the Nazi’s annexed Austria, and then there were the crushing Monopoly defeats. And the best of times, in that the girls did get to spend a lot of time with each other, watched as Anne was accepted by Marilla (by my count at least 7 times), the Von Trapp Singer’s victory at the Salzburg Music Festival, and the privilege of playing Monopoly with their older brother.