by Carole Lee
Holiday disasters come in all shapes and sizes, and no one is immune. From the time my brother was five-years-old -- old enough to climb the Christmas tree -- to last year, the year of “The Casserole,” I have learned that disasters seek us out, as if Santa is on a budget, and trying his best to knock us all over to the naughty side in order to save a few pounds of reindeer feed and shave a few hours off his yearly voyage.
Thankfully, for my mother’s sanity, my brother’s tree-climbing interest lasted only one holiday season. By New Years, the tree looked like a war zone. Not a single piece of tinsel was spared. Most of the branches hung limp and lifeless, and some were broken and dangling. Pine needles littered the brown shag carpet like holiday shrapnel. The obligatory Christmas picture that year featured me, grinning like a three-year-old who had yet to gain an appreciation for rattling Mom’s nerves, my brother, staring at me as if he were plotting my demise (he was), and poor Mom, looking disheveled, tired and staring off into space.
My former landlady, Eleanor, had an interesting Christmas disaster that she shared with me. She divorced young, and raised her two boys on her own. For that, she deserved a medal. What she got was something entirely different, most days. One Christmas, she invited a nice fellow over for dinner, and put her boys on their best behavior. What she didn’t know was that her younger son, Chris, had not only adopted a cat, but he was keeping him in his room. And feeding him. A lot. Eleanor’s friend arrived early for dinner just in time for her to discover that the kitchen stove quit dead with the turkey half raw, the furnace stopped working, the water pipes froze... and WHAT was that smell?! They did eventually track down the odor, which was emanating from Chris’ room. All over his room. He was a little too young to understand that cats need a litter box, and every time there was a mess, he hid it under a toy or a pillow or a blanket. At least her friend brought a bottle of bourbon for them to share after feeding the kids Cheerios for Christmas dinner.
Holiday disasters hit us all when we’re not looking, but the great thing is how families can tighten up and still share joy. When my boys were little, my ex-husband’s grandfather and my grandmother both died on the same day, three days before Christmas, and just a few hours apart. That could have been the worst disaster ever, but we decided that it wouldn’t lick us. We had our Christmas, if only just for the kids, and there was joy.
As far as disasters go, the only thing we can’t mentally recover from is last year’s mystery casserole. At least its physical effects wore off after a few days.