My Griswold Family Christmas


I swear, every single thing related here is true.  It is 100% true.  I can produce witnesses who will confirm as to the validity of my harrowing tale.

Once upon a time, in a little community in South Carolina, in a town called Fair Play, on Highway 59, Dustin Lane….

It all began when I decided I was going to do Christmas dinner.  It was my first.  My little house was decorated to perfection.  I had the turkey, the only one I ever cooked.  Everything was done in advance, so I wouldn’t be up all night, working, as was the family tradition.

December 23

Made dressing
Mashed potatoes
Made cranberry sauce
Made cranberry relish
Strung the beans
Made the appetizers

December 24

This is where it all started go go wrong. My mother called me at 9:30. I was up most of the night cooking. I was going to sail through the day, making my desserts, and not doing much of anything else. It was all done, ready for my dinner party the next day. Her sister called. My cousin Bobby was picking up his sons, Randy and Ryan in North Carolina, and wanted to have Christmas with us. She had shipped their presents to my mother, but they weren’t tracking.

My mother couldn’t let a little kid go without a gift. I think by this time the guys were 8 and 10. She TOLD me I had to go to Seneca to the grocery store and to Wallyworld to find something for the guys. I was slow to get dressed. By eleven she was furious with me.

Do you know the sheer hell it is, shopping in Wallyworld at noon on Christmas Eve? I swear I still have PTSD over it. I finally made it home, alive by about 2:30. By this time my mother is working on her dinner party. Her Christmas Eve was always about a beef tenderloin, very good wine, champagne, sterling, china, Waterford, her absolutely vile brie soup, and perfection. I was not helping her that year. I was working on my pies.

At my little house, I turned on the Christmas lights and started working on the pies. I noticed that my parent’s dog, a golden mix, Donovan, was acting strange. So was my Clancy, the perfect poodle. The cats were weird. Finally, I went to see why Donovan had begun barking.

A squirrel was hanging inside my fireplace screen.  The first thing I did was call my mother, telling her to keep my father occupied.  The last thing I wanted was him in my home, with a squirrel on the lose.  It would be like a bad comedy.  I called the neighbor, asking for help. I stressed that he wasn’t to call my father.  Both my father and Mike arrived at the same time.

It was terrifying, something out of a…Chevy Chase movie.  You know, the one where the squirrel went up the Christmas tree?  I knew it was going to happen that way.  The dogs were yapping.  The cats were having a blast.  All I could do was listen to Mike and my father consult with one another as how to dispose of the squirrel.

They built a fire.  I kept working on pies, turning out several works of beauty, with pie crust cut with cookie cutters, covering various flavors.  I looked up to see Mike carrying the squirrel by the tail, through my yard.  It was best not to inquire any farther.

Having left a mess in my living room, my father and Mike then went next door, to see what they could do there.  My mother was peeling potatoes to boil then mash.  She told my father not to put them in the garbage disposal.  His comment, as usual, was “You don’t think I’m capable of doing anything?”

He stopped up the garbage disposal.
He and Mike decided to fix it.
In the process they broke the handle on the broom which was shoved down the garbage disposal.
We don’t know who had the bright idea to turn on the disposal.
The plumbing in the kitchen was backing up, badly.
My mother called, in tears.
If I did not get over there, she was going to kill them both.
By the time I did, Mike had poured a nice, big glass of Jack London cab for her.
He and I finished dinner.
She finished the bottle of wine.
I think we cooked the tenderloin properly.

My mother had called my best friend, in tears, canceling the dinner. By this time she was on a second bottle of wine. Annlee’s daughters, Leigh and Ashley were now both over the age of twenty-one. Having spent many Christmas Eves at the house, one year being involved in a highly controversial situation where they were under the Christmas tree when it fell over, they wanted to come over – and drink champagne.

They did.
My mother did, also.

She also told my father and Mike to take the now dirty kitchen dishes downstairs to wash them in the basement kitchen. They decided to wash them in the bathtub. By that time, she was not quite able to even notice what they were doing.

Leigh and Ashley had their first champagne Christmas Eve.
Their mother told me to call her when, now that the squirrel had been removed from the house, the cousin was visiting, and my mother was feeling no pain, the shitter needed to be emptied.

We thought it was hilarious.

December 25

The next day everything went quite well. Mike and my father nearly stopped up the kitchen sink at my house. I think I remember asking them to leave. Lee and Ashley, sitting on the floor in front of the television, watching Star Wars, were trying to get Bobby’s two boys to try eating my polished rocks. They told them it was rock candy. Their mother told them to grow up and not try breaking the boys’ teeth.

December 26

The following morning Bobby and the boys went back to North Carolina. Then, disaster struck when my father did not call the plumber my mother asked him to use. He called some jerk who emptied septic tanks.

The shitter was full….

About noon my mother called, crying. The man had dribbled sewage down her oatmeal colored carpet. He had dribbled it through the ceiling of the basement, and all over a fortune in photos I had enlarged and would use in art shows. It was all over the carpet in the basement.

She was ready to do something drastic. I told her we would go shopping. When we stopped by my father’s business she was still crying. She told he and Mike (who was always in on anything disastrous) to clean up the mess they caused. When the carpets were cleaned and the ceiling clean, they could call, and we would come home.

It was nearly eight that evening.

I hereby swear that every single word of this is true.