"You set standards that no family activity can live up to."
"When have I ever done that?"
"Parties, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays..."
"Good night, Ellen."
My favorite holiday movie is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Clark Griswold wants nothing more than to treat his nearest and dearest to an Old-fashioned Family Christmas. Unfortunately for Clark, reality never measures up to the Christmas of his dreams. With few exceptions, there is so much in this movie that hits close to home, it's scary.
"Clark, Audrey's frozen from the waist down."
"That's all part of the experience, honey."
This year, our Old-fashioned Family Christmas got its official start on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Texas Tech played Baylor at the Cowboys Stadium, and because our daughter is a Red Raider, we bought tickets in the nosebleed section to show her that, maroon-blooded Aggies though we may be, we can root for Tech, too. Of course, it helped that the Aggies beat Tech (and Baylor) earlier in the season, so we could afford to be magnanimous. In addition to the five of us, my husband's sister, niece, brother and father tagged along. The four of them had never been to JerryWorld, and this was the perfect opportunity for a family outing to see what is now the second largest HD video screen in the world. Too bad Jerry Jones didn't have the smarts to purchase a Best Buy Buy Back program for the day his video screen got outclassed.
Anyhoots, based on the weatherman's predictions, my husband planned a nice tailgate. Unfortunately, the weather was anything but cool, calm and sunny. Instead, something like a first cousin to a Maine nor'easter blew into town. The wind was vicious and it was drizzly. I tried to be the Voice of Reason and suggested that maybe we should have our tailgate indoors. I could light a fire in the fireplace, turn on the tree lights, and we could all pretend we could see the stadium from the living room windows. My husband acted as if the weatherman had deliberately lied to him and refused to consider it. Needless to say, it was the most miserable tailgate I have ever attended. The wind was so bad, one of the blue Porta-Potties scattered around the parking lot actually blew over and was last seen headed toward the stadium. God forbid someone was in it.
"Do you sleep with your brother? Do you know how sick and twisted that is?"
This takes me back a few years to when our kids were small and my parents were still able to make the drive up from Houston to Dallas. Since I insisted the grandparents stay with us, that meant the kids were driven out of their rooms to sleep in ours. The sleeping bags were dragged out of the attic and our rugrats were arranged on the floor all around our bed, one on either side and a third at the foot. We were snugged down like a pack of wolves, and almost as surly.
This situation created an immense problem for the cat we had at that time, a very shy creature that lived under our bed during the day, and only came out at night, vampire-like, after everyone was asleep to eat and use the facilities. Once Maddie had safely traversed the bedroom floor, she would invariably meet up with my dad, who was a night owl himself, and both parties would freeze in their tracks...Maddie because there was no going forward or back, and my Dad because he had forgotten we had a cat. The arrangement created traffic problems for us, too, because as carefully as we tried to tiptoe around the bodies of our children, sloshed as we were on eggnog spiked with bourbon, inevitably we would step on an arm or leg or head. Eventually, the kids got too big to be spending their Christmases sleeping on the floor and my parents were put up in a nearby hotel.
"Welcome to our home...what's left of it."
Right this minute, my house is in pretty good shape. That's because there are no kids to mess up things. It's nice to walk by their rooms and see them neat and tidy. Even the cats seem to be respecting the new regime and are staying off the beds and not shedding white fur all over the boys' navy blue comforters. But I know this will come to an end next week when the two youngest come home for their holiday break.
"If that cat had nine lives it sure used them all."
My daughter used to have mice for pets. At the time we were between cats, or I would never have consented to purchasing a mouse, much less two. The two quickly became a lot because one of the little buggers was pregnant when we bought it. Anyway, we had mice out the wazoo for two or three years before they finally, mercifully died off, and as much as I hate to admit it, I had a hand in the death of one of them.
One Christmas, during this mousy phase, I found some real working Christmas lights made for a doll house. I bought a couple of sets for my daughter's doll house, and on a whim, I bought an extra set for the mouse cage. The mice, when they weren't engaged in mouse-like activities like running laps on their wheelie, would sleep huddled under a structure designed to look like a hollow log. I strung the lights around the log and taped the battery pack to the glass, so no one would pee on it and short it out. I had that much sense, but unfortunately, there, my thought processes ended. It never occurred to me that one of the mice would actually chew through the wire, but it did and it electrocuted itself. I imagine this flash of light and a BZZZZZTTT sound, much like a bug zapper. I guess even two AA batteries are enough to bring a tiny rodent heart to a screaming stop. I felt terrible about it, but my daughter didn't seem too upset. I think by then, the novelty of being a mouse den mother had pretty much worn off.
"You got a kiss for me?"
"Better take a rain check on that, Art. He's got a lip fungus they ain't identified yet."
I can’t explain why the Santa in this photo looks like a derelict, but there is a reason why Paige is wearing a hat, and not because it’s cold outside. She was being treated for a fungal infection. Our doctor never did give it a proper name, saying it was “some kind of fungus”, which is a lot like telling the victim of a crime “you are the victim of a crime”. So much for medical science.
Anyway, the mystery fungus caused two big patches of hair to fall out: the biggest on the upper right side of her head, and a smaller patch just behind her left ear. Her hair had to be washed in a special shampoo that stung horribly, and then slathered with another medicine that left it greasy, and its owner smelling vaguely of kerosene. It probably would not have been a good idea to place her near an open flame. After shampooing, I would ever-so-gently comb out her hair, starting at the bottom and working my way to the top to avoid tangling, but no matter how carefully I combed, her hair would come out in handfuls. By the time I was finished, we would both be in tears; Paige, because it hurt, and me, because I had an 8-year-old with a bad comb over.
When this photo was taken, the worst of it was past us and her blonde locks had started growing again. Interestingly, the hair behind the ear came in curly.
This one particular Christmas, we had a real live tree, a Noble Fir that, was...well, quite noble. Of all the Christmas tree varieties you can buy, I have always preferred the Noble Fir because its branches do not make me think of toilet bowl brushes. Anyway, we got this tree home, set up, watered, lit and decorated. A few days go by and I begin to notice flies in the house. This is December and there shouldn't be any flies, but here they are clustered on my dining room window. I Raided them, pitched the little bodies in the trash and forgot about it until the next morning, when there were more flies. Hmmmmm...
To paraphrase the song, things were beginning to look a lot like the Amityville Horror. We knew the insects had to be coming from the tree and as much as we peered into the piney depths, we could not detect any buggy activity. I kept the can of Raid handy and eventually, the flies, much like the mice, died off and that's all I care to say about that.
"You surprised to see us, Clark?"
"Oh, Eddie...if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now."
I have no personal experience with this, just love that bit of dialogue between Clark and cousin Eddie.
All quotes and the screen shot are from Warner Bros. Pictures' National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
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