Christmas Eve, 2007: Our Hootenanny of Holiday Horrors

I’ve written before about my love for Carolyn Hax, the Washington Post’s homegrown and now syndicated advice columnist – and in particular, my love for her annual Hootenanny of Holiday Horrors chat, in which readers submit (usually hysterical) horror stories of holidays past.

This year’s Hoot was no different, what with it being filled with stories of Christmas trees used as javelins and boxes of dryer lint delivered as presents and melted gummy bears stuck to expensive pants (trust me, just read it). I did my best to stifle snorts and sniffles (of the laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying variety), and when that didn’t work, I just let the laughs roll. As a friend said, one of the reasons that makes it so great to read each year is that it shows you that everyone’s family has dysfunctional holidays. (OK, some more than others, judging by the chat.)

Although I’ve never submitted this to Carolyn, the time has finally come to write down the story of Christmas Eve, 2007, aka “The Worst Christmas Eve Ever.” Really. Ever.

To be fair, the seeds of the disaster holiday were planted well before December 24.

I found out I had cancer on November 30. The day before we were planning to go buy our Christmas tree. So that started the holiday season off with a bang.

Then, Clarence went careening into a wall on December 23, which left him yelping and resulted in an overnight (and expensive) visit to the emergency vet. That vet wanted us to a) leave him there, crated; and b) have him get an even-more-expensive MRI. We declined and agreed to keep him relatively immobilized and crated until we could get him back our vet in D.C. a few days later.

Naturally, the next day – also known as what would become The Worst Christmas Eve Ever — working on pretty much no sleep, we got rear-ended on Route 1. In our new car. With Clarence in the back. You know, the dog who we were supposed to keep immobilized. (B has noted for the record every time that we’ve told this story that we got hit by a guy named Reagan.)

We made it through Christmas Eve dinner, my favorite of the year, featuring the traditional Italian dinner of the feast of the seven fishes. After dinner, I volunteered to walk Sandy, our then-getting-geriatric mutt. The same ice that caused the accident earlier in the day? It was all over the deck, and I went down hard, as Sandy pulled me along. Fun.

Then we got inside, and it seemed like Sandy couldn’t lift her paw. I didn’t see that her claw was caught in her blanket and thought she had broken her foot or something on the ice.

And that’s when it happened: complete, utter meltdown.

Did I mention that my now-sister-in-law was there for her first Christmas Eve with our family? And she’d only met me twice before? And now I was standing in the middle of the kitchen, sobbing over my dog’s paw, stuck in a blanket. (After that scene, the real Christmas miracle might be that she ever came back.)

My mom tried to diffuse the situation, saying “It was a bad day. Tomorrow will be better.”

B’s response: “It has been a bad month.”

That it was. And it was a bad day. And the next day was better. And all of our Christmas Eves since have been, too. Hey, even the year when I thought I could make several dozen caramelized onion tartlets from two onions didn’t leave me a crying mess in the middle of the kitchen.

Swearing, maybe, but not crying. And isn’t that a normal holiday for most of us?


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