We’ve all had them, those Christmas Eves that blew chunks, ones we would truly like to forget.
For some families, they involve drunken brawls or fist fights, for others they might feature stone-cold pending divorce silence. And of course, there are the Christmas Eves where people are really, truly, life-threateningly sick.
Like most folks, I’ve had my share of bad ones.
On Christmas Eve of my 12th birthday, I got my period.
Gave new meaning to doing the Christmas rag.
I tried to hide it from my mother, who had already given me the talk. Not the nice talk about becoming a woman. The talk about what happens when you go to Girl Guide camp and one of your two pairs of shorts gets ruined.
Vera was, after all, a glass half-empty type of 50s mom.
So I did what all girls who have complicated relationships with their mothers’ do. I didn’t tell her. Unfortunately,I hadn’t thought through the fact my mom would notice that some of her pads were missing and would be found later, smouldering, in the garbage can near the peach orchard, as if I had become some kind of serial Kotex murderer.
My first two serious relationships ended at Christmas. The first, I left. The second left me. The worst part of the second was that my husband was leaving the day after Christmas to be with his lover in Bermuda and I had to endure his relatives, his cheap Christmas gift of a watch that never worked, and the Amex bills that revealed that he had bought much more expensive jewelry for his new lady.
I still have nightmares after watching Love Actually.
Another highlight was the year, the very next, when my beloved Black Lab, Mandy, dropped dead at the kitchen table, thanks to a babysitter who left oatmeal chocolate chip muffins on the counter. I spent a few dreadful hours trying to get rid of her carcass the dog, I would later fire the babysitter — before the kids came home from their school Christmas party.
Because I’ve had bad Christmases, I try to be grateful when things go smoothly as they have for more than a decade. The Scott years have been wonderful, and, if not memorable, at least catastrophe-free.
This year started out with promise. We had prepared a hearty feast, all the children and their significants were in attendance. Even, my little grandson, the puppy Beau, was on hand to keep Finnigan and Sophie in their places.
Everything was terrific until an hour in, when I began to sweat. I’m not talking about perspiration, I’m talking buckets of saline pouring out like a cloudburst. It’s not like I was doing much, just stirring the pot with the rice for the tangy, spicy meatballs. And I couldn’t exactly blame the alcohol, as I’d had exactly one glass of red wine.
Regardless, I was a sweaty, hair stuck to my forehead, drenched like a Japanese tourist at Niagara Fall, mess.
I opened the door to let in some much needed chilly relief only to be told to close it because the partiers didn’t want to get frost bite. So I decided to join the smokers, undressed in t-shirt and sandals — me, not them — outside for nearly a half hour.
Truly, I felt as if I’d run to the gym, got on the treadmill, had a swim, taken a sauna and run back to tend to the meatballs.
“Mum, are you alright?” Marissa asked.
“Rose, do you need to go to the hospital?” Scott asked, watching his hand slide off my forearm.
I smiled wanely, sat in my chair, and closed my eyes.
I tried to talk to Sara, Nick’s girlfriend, then watched in horror as Sophie jumped on her and let loose a bucket of pee.
“Thanks, Beau,” I sneered at the cute puppy who had spent the previous half hour sowing his oats, mounting her, biting her and trying to make Sophie his bitch.
While the girls were chowing down on enough Toblerone chocolate fondue to turn all the Swiss milkers dry, I practised medication.
Then it was time to open presents.
Scott opened a large box brought in by the children, which I will call the Widowmaker.
It was a brand new PS4 video game console, and it meant I would not be seeing my husband for at least a fortnight. Instead of watching funny Christmas movies, we all sat around and watched him try to remember his Sony password for three, count ’em, three hours.
In the end, I was thankful to the Sony Corporation which apparently had found itself, aside from being threatened with “death to all” by the North Koreans, having had its server crash due to the huge volume of folks trying to download The Interview and big kids who got their PS4s early.
It meant everybody at my party went home at 9 p.m.
And so it was, on Christmas Eve, 2014, I crawled into bed and fell into a fitful sleep without benefit of wine, but with the assistance of some Ibuprofen, only to be awakened by a huge mother fucker of a windstorm that was blowing trees and lights down our street. Man, I thought, Santa is in for it tonight.
You know those storms that are so intense that they, literally, take your breath-away?
I found myself jumping up, after holding my breath for three minutes. My heart was pounding, my eyes were bugging out. It was like Inspector Clouseau being ambushed by Cato, if Cato had been a windstorm shitshow.
Scott was blown awake as well. He padded out to find me shivering in the dark and decided to show me how to log on to Netflix, which was the last friggin’ thing I wanted to do. I climbed on my chair and cranked up my brand new heating pad and tried to calm the fuck down.
Then I went to the bathroom to wash my face and discovered that I had pink eye.
Won’t I be popular with the kids today?
Just a little Christmas story to ease you into your day.
Well, nobody died, did they?
I don’t know about you, but I’ll be spending the day on the couch in shorts.
Oh, and by the way, I lost five pounds over night.
I shit you not.
Have a Merry one.