Christmas hasn’t always been merry for our family. Be assured that it is merry most of the time. However, there were memorable exceptions throughout the years.
For many years, my mother’s extended family celebrated Christmas–the eve and the day–at my great aunt Katie’s home because she had the longest and widest dining room. We put three large tables together so the entire family—kids included—could sit at the dinner table together. The Christmas tree, with everyone’s presents beneath it, occupied her living room. Before I tell you about one particular Christmas nightmare at Aunt Katie’s, I need to fill you in on the stars of this misadventure: my second cousins, the fraternal twins M and B.
When I was a little girl, my grandfather bought a large older summer home in a small town on Long Island. He invited several family members to spend the summer there. M and B were approaching three years old at the time. While their parents and everyone else, including the older kids and me, were unpacking and doing other chores, M and B got hold of the pieces of hardware needed to assemble their cribs, took them into the bathroom, and flushed them down the porcelain facility. Now you know what demonic spawns of Satan these little darlings happen to be.
At Christmas dinner that same year, while the rest of the family was enjoying a scrumptious dessert of Italian pastries, M and B managed to slip away without being noticed. We were clearing the table when their mom looked around and saw they were gone. She called out to them. Silence. Uh-Oh. Panicking, she shrieked, “Find them!”
We scattered to search. The kids and I ran outside to see if they sneaked out to play in the snow. That’s when we heard the mother of all primal screams that pierced the house’s windows, walls, and siding—the loudest Oh my God I’ve ever heard. The kids and I ran back inside to the sight of all the parents and elders huddled together in the entrance to the living room, hands pressed to their temples, jaws slackened, eyes widened in dismay. Did they find M and B? Were M and B hurt? We squeezed between them to see what it was that freaked them out. There they were on the floor in front of the Christmas tree, little M and B, in the midst of a blizzard of torn wrapping paper, ribbon, empty gift boxes, and the contents of all the empty gift boxes. The horror. We all played detective for the next hour trying to remember who bought what for whom. Not a very Merry Christmas. M and B went on everyone’s Naughty List.
My parents’ six-month-old Viszla puppy was a chowhound of the first order. If anyone left food within his reach, it disappeared into his bottomless pit of a stomach instantaneously. I was in Graduate School, still single, and still living at home when this after Christmas culinary nightmare occurred. A few days after Christmas, we gathered in my maternal grandparents’ apartment for a post Christmas dinner of leftovers—antipasto, ravioli, meatballs and sausage, salad, and the main course of leftover beef roast, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy. We polished off the first four courses and were ready for the roast. My dad went into the kitchen to carve it, only to discover his Viszla puppy standing on a kitchen chair, front paws on the kitchen table, muzzle in the gravy boat as he lapped up every last drop of gravy. Fortunately, according to Dad, the roast itself was just beyond the puppy’s reach. [I still have my suspicions.] Unfortunately, there was no gravy for the leftover roast and taters that night. Pass the ketchup, please.
There’s nothing worse than being sick at Christmas time. I know. I’ve been there. It’s a nightmare to be sure. Macho Guy and I knew we were all coming down with something gross the day we were supposed to drive to New York to spend Christmas with my mom. We called to beg off, but she wouldn’t hear of it. If we were sick when we got there, she said she’d take care of us. That year was her turn to host the four of us for Christmas, and she wasn’t about to forfeit her turn. We knew we’d never hear the end of it if we failed to show, so we bundled up in the car and headed north. Once we arrived, she tried to get us to eat dinner, but the mere thought of food…ugh. We all went straight to bed.
Mom was relentless. No flu virus was going to spoil her plans for Christmas. She had invited my two nephews to stay at her place while we were there so they would get to spend time with their cousins. We strongly advised against it. That advice fell on deaf ears. As a result, her apartment eventually bore a distinct resemblance to a hospital ward. Instead of caroling on Christmas Eve, her six patients were hurling. On Christmas Day, the rest of the family gathered in my grandparent’s apartment on the floor above while we six sickies were quarantined in Mom’s apartment below. Amazingly enough, Mom never caught the flu from us. I’m convinced the flu didn’t dare to spoil her Christmas by infecting her.
And then there was the time our American Eskimo devil dog committed Christmas sacrilege. While our family members slept all snug in their beds on Christmas Eve, that dastardly devil dog snatched Baby Jesus from the manger beneath the Christmas tree and gnawed his head off. We were aghast. There was a donkey, an ox, a sheep, and lambs in the manger surrounding Baby Jesus. Couldn’t devil dog have chewed one of them instead? Why Baby Jesus? And now what was to become of our headless Baby Jesus? We couldn’t very well toss him in the trash. Do we bury him? Cremate him? We had never faced a situation like that before. Then a frightening thought occurred to me. As devil dog’s owners, MG and I were responsible for his despicable behavior. I expected to be struck by a thunderbolt at any moment. So, would we receive divine punishment? Or would we be forgiven for the evil perpetrated by our devil dog? What would our fate be? I still dread the thought. Holy Christmas nightmare!