My 39, Day 36.

Right now there is a box in my foyer. It is very big, very heavy, and at the moment, hastily covered in scratch paper to disguise the print declaring its contents (the one and only negative I’ve found to having a voracious early reader).

So we did what all exhausted parents with slightly bad backs do. Instead of hauling it to the garage only to haul it back out on Christmas Eve, we told a little white lie.

Something about it being for Dad’s work and not to bother it. The laziest lie in the history of all lies. It’s like we weren’t even trying.

No one’s busted us yet.

If all goes according to plan, they’ll be sugar plum visioning by 8. That equals a respectable three hours and change for us to transform a pile of parts into one ready for Christmas morning action foosball table, and still make bedtime by midnight.

It’ll all come down to how well we read and follow that one document with the potential to suck away every ounce of Christmas cheer – the instruction manual.

Much to my own misery, I tend to treat them as guides, flipping right past the Spanish, French, Italian, and English versions, and going straight for the pictures.

When the diagrams have taken me as far as they can, and I’m staring at the leftover parts that defy all logic, then I’ll go back to the instructions, skimming for the answer somewhere between Step 2 and Step 34c.

So Rett will do it, while I’m relegated to the role of parts inventory specialist.

When the teamwork pays off and I’m bleary eyed, wanting to drift off but unable to (it’s past midnight! It’s Christmas! Why am I the only one up?), I’ll think of an exercise from the third grade.

An exercise so simple that I wonder why three plus decades later I’m still not following it.

“Read all directions before starting this assignment. Do not begin until you have read all the directions. Be sure you read the entire page before starting. Read all the way to the end.”

It was a bizarre paper. But I drew the shapes and squiggles and followed each numbered task down to the last meticulous detail.

I was so stinkin’ proud.

And then I got to the end. The last instruction.

“Do not do anything else except write your name in the top right corner of this page.”

Ooh Mrs. Parker, you got me good on that one. Even if you do take smoke breaks in the girls’ bathroom, and the turquoise beads on your sweater scratch something awful when you hug me too tight.

Well played woman.

Read the directions before you start. Follow the instructions all the way to the end.

Third grade logic with a thirty something shelf life.

Maybe I’ll find it online. Get a head start on that instruction manual.

If I do (when I do), no doubt from the smoking section of Heaven, Mrs. Parker will be smiling down on me.

“Better late than never, Bec.”