I make everyone watch A Christmas Story every year, because it’s important that I make sure, every year, that Ralphie doesn’t ACTUALLY shoot his eye out. Similarly, Chickadee requires that we watch Elf every year, because we have to confirm that Christmas is saved and also that if you’re paid enough money, you can indeed eat platefuls of spaghetti and maple syrup. Or something.
I have no problem watching the same movie(s) every year. I enjoy the predictability, especially as our actual lives are not nearly as predictable as I’d like. In fact, it’s something of a family joke, how disastrous our Christmases often end up, so why not watch the films about how everything works out just right in the end, after a few bumps along the way?
This year I just knew that Christmas was going to be amazing, though. The kids got iPhones—before the holiday, even—and I’m not going to lie, I was feeling smug. I’d finally won at Christmas, this year, managing to both make the children happy AND avert any sort of crisis or disaster because the plan was to stay home and have a quiet holiday. With the “big gift” out of the way, there were just a few boxes under the tree… wrapped early, even! The stage was set for family togetherness. If not peace on earth, at least calm and relative happiness.
When school let out on Friday I practically shrieked with glee. Time to relax!
Well, things started off with a bang; somehow we’d managed to book ourselves solid for that first weekend. That’s very, VERY unusual for us, because as you know I am a shy retiring hermit and too much social interaction makes me break out into hives. Plus the teenagers, you know, they can be temperamental beasties when forced away from their routines. Somehow, though, we had friends over on Friday night, went to a party on Saturday night, and hosted another group of friends on Sunday night. That is RATHER A LOT of merriment, and yet, as we fell into bed on Sunday night, I remarked to Otto that, “We have done more socializing this weekend that in the entire past year and IT WAS KINDA FUN!” Together we marveled at how novel this was and what a good time EVERYONE had had.
[Sidebar: The Saturday night party was one of those “hey, let’s just go for an hour or so” sorts of things where we looked up 3 hours later and realized we’d accidentally had a great time. This may have been due in some small part to the fact that our hosts have a basement, and the moment we walked in the door, we were informed that “the kids are downstairs.” Otto and I made merry and saw no teenagers for hours, save for the couple of times Monkey darted out to the food table to load up plates for the basement crew. When we realized it had gotten late and we should be getting ready to depart, I ventured down into the basement. Back in the farthest corner was a card table, and clustered around it was a small but cheerful gang of nerdlings, playing—I am not making this up—a cutthroat game of Pokemon Monopoly.
“Kids, we’re going to leave in a few minutes,” I said.
“Moooooooom!” protested Chickadee, gesturing at the game, “It would be SOCIAL SUICIDE to leave before the game is over!”
I looked at her, and the other teens, and the game spread before them. “Uhhhhh…” I said, wondering if I should try to break it to them gently, then deciding honesty was the best policy. “Um, honey? You’re at a party, in the basement, playing Pokemon Monopoly. I’m pretty sure any hope of social status any of you have ever had… well, let’s just say that ship has already sailed.”
I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure I heard one of the boys mutter, “It’s funny ’cause it’s true!” as I went back up the stairs.]
Monday morning arrived with rain and gloom, but no alarms were set and our collective joy could not be dampened. Even when the stupid, prissy doglumps decided they didn’t need to go out in the rain and we had to carry their princess-selves outside to pee, WE WERE HAPPY, DAMMIT. Because BREAK! CHRISTMAS! YAY!
Around dinnertime on Monday, I turned to Otto and said, “You know what? I don’t feel so good.” If it had been a movie, that’s where the needle-screeching-across-a-record sound would’ve gone. I mean, I tried to hold out some hope that I was just being a big baby, but by the time I headed to bed (very early), I had that sinking feeling that our awesome Christmas break was about to hit a roadblock.
Tuesday morning was also rainy and gray. Otto drove me to the doctor for a flu swab and pulled the car right up to the door for me and everything. Afterward, he took me home and then went back out to pick up my Tamiflu and some ginger ale. Have I mentioned that he’s swell? Because HE IS SWELL. He’s the best. While he was picking up my stuff, I
ran moved very slowly through the house with a canister of antibacterial wipes, wiping down all phones, keyboards, counters, and anything I thought I might have touched. Then I crawled back into bed and when Monkey came in to check on me, I screeched “DON’T TOUCH ME! I’M CONTAGIOUS!!” Then I wiped him down with a Lysol wipe. (Kidding! I just directed him to our Silkwood shower.)
So Tuesday was a wash, as was Wednesday, but y’know, Tamiflu is pretty magical stuff, and this morning for Christmas I felt like I’d been run over by a truck, but mostly okay other than that. And the CHRISTMAS MIRACLE is that NO ONE ELSE GOT SICK. Not the people I fed here on Sunday night, no one else in the family… I don’t know where I got it, or how I managed not to share it, but I’m thrilled.
Also please note that due to various scheduling and memory issues, I am the only member of our family who had a flu shot this year. So! LUCKY! (Actually, the last time I had the flu was 10 years ago, and I seriously thought I was going to die. This flu was unpleasant but not death-is-imminent kind of unpleasant, so theoretically having the shot may have saved me from a worse case.)
Flu for Christmas is not ideal, of course, but like I said, by today I was almost healthy again, so it’d be hard to complain. We had a lovely morning and everyone got a few surprises (Monkey looks quite dashing in the Cthulhu ski mask his sister gave him, and you should’ve seen Otto’s face when he realized I sold my hair to buy him that watch chain!) and a lot of chocolate. The dogs even received a visit from Santa Paws, and so while we opened presents, they destroyed their new toys. (Duncan delicately filleted his new toy in the middle of the family room rug, extracting the fluff one strand at a time, while Licorice ground a bacon-scented rope toy into a pile of threads on the couch. Later I sat on the spot where the destruction had occurred; my ass now smells like bacon.)
I know I’ve discussed the traditional Christmas cake of Otto’s family here, before. Otto and his siblings text pictures back and forth of the various baking sessions, because it’s not just enough that everyone make and eat Christmas cake, it has somehow evolved to be a competitive sibling sport. Because I do a lot more baking than Otto (read: the only thing Otto ever bakes is Christmas cake), I usually help him with ours, but I was too sick to help when he was baking, yesterday. At one point I wandered into the kitchen and saw the bowl of dough rising, and I was… worried. It looked very sticky. But Otto assured me he had it under control and so I crossed my fingers and left him to it. Well. He baked two beautiful, perfect Christmas cakes, and he and the kids had big pieces this morning after we were done with gifts. Perhaps Christmas cake isn’t as big a miracle as Tamiflu, but it’s certainly up there.
A grand time was had by all, and it wasn’t until I asked Otto to take Duncan out, midday, that I remembered I’d let Licorice out earlier and never let her back in. (Licorice will go hang out in the dog run on her own for half an hour at a time. Duncan prefers to be carried down the stairs like the prince he is, and then runs back inside the moment he’s done doing his business.) Otto took Duncan out, but came back in and said Licorice wasn’t out there.
We checked the house. We checked outside again. We realized that earlier we’d gone outside to watch Otto fly his new remote-control helicopter, and it’s possible the porch door hadn’t fully latched. Ruh oh.
“GUYS!” said Chickadee, while she pulled on her boots. “Didn’t Licorice run off on Christmas once before??” I couldn’t remember. Licorice loves us, but she likes to go on adventures. Chickie reminded us that one year the dog had gotten out and she’d been frantic about the possibility of her being run over, and we’d assured her that there were no cars out because it was Christmas. So 1) she has a better memory than we do and 2) yes, this would be the second Christmas Bolting of the rotten dog.
Chickadee headed towards the woods, while Otto hopped in his car. I paced the house and porch, trying not to worry. I’d let the dog out at least 20 minutes earlier, maybe longer. Suffice it to say it was a VERY LONG ten minutes before I just happened to step out on the porch as Licorice came streaking out of the woods like a bat out of hell. I don’t know if she was being chased or just got spooked by something, but I called her and she ran right into my arms and immediately went boneless and whimpered a little. I checked her over for injuries—nothing, thankfully—and then texted the search crew to let them know she was back. Then I gave her another bath (she’d just had one on Sunday!) because she was all muddy.
And then I had to take a nap because that was a lot of excitement.
Anyway. Merry Christmas! We are mostly healthy and mostly together (Monkey has left us for a few days, but I did resist the urge to fill his pockets with Christmas cake as he was leaving), and today was more good than not. That’s enough of a miracle for me.