The night before Christmas and I’m in the kitchen making deviled eggs. Beautiful, until most of them slide off the tray onto my dry-clean only kitchen Christmas rug. It’s okay. I have good gifts.
Christmas Morning. I make everyone’s favorite dish. We may not have eggs, but we have the crowd-pleaser. As I remove the mac and cheese from the over, the foil pan buckles. My traditional dish has turned to slop all over the oven door, in the hinges, in the oven and on the floor. I’m O for 2.
I’m a very good mother, but I’m a mess in the kitchen. About all I can do is wash dishes. When the oven cools I clean up the pile of macaroni, but the gooey cheese is a challenge. I hit the “auto-clean” button on the stove. I’ve never baked enough to need an auto-clean, but there is a first for everything.
Christmas is going to be great. Yesterday, my daughter, Jill, told me she was bringing food for Christmas. I reminded her I was making everything. She told me it was backup food, and then reminisced about the Christmas Eve when my prepared dinner was so difficult to swallow we all agree to brave the cold night to go in search of food.
While the oven is cleaning, I’m in the master bath doing my hair/makeup. The smoke detector goes off. My alarms are 20 ft. from the floor. I leave the bedroom and my whole house is in a thick fog. Smoke is pouring out of the oven. I open all the doors and windows and turn on all the ceiling fans. For the next 10 minutes I run through the house flapping my arms hoping the circulation I’m adding by fanning placemats will satisfy the alarms. It works.
Why is the oven door locked? The timer says I have four more hours of auto-clean with smoke shooting out of the top-back of the oven. I hit the OFF button. I can live with a dirty oven because I’m never using it again. I’ve got to leave the kitchen; the day is becoming “R” rated.
I return to my bedroom, where I’m staying until something happens… like I can breathe or I’m rescued.
A few hours later the kids arrive. They come in and they begin debating why my house is so cold and stinky. Jill says she needs eye drops to tolerate the air. Jason stares at my oven, which looks burnt on the outside. He says I can fix it with engine paint. Jill adds her backup food to my lone soup dish. We begin our celebration.
It’s time to open gifts. I get wet trash bags from under the sink. Hmm… must have spilled Windex or something. First gift is opened, my granddaughter, Dee loves it.
I say, “That’s not for you, give it to Jan.”
Dee opens her second gift. “Oops, that’s not yours either.”
I didn’t use name tags because this year I was grouping gifts to put them in bags, but I messed up my system. I tell the kids to open gifts and I’ll tell them who gets what. It worked great except 4-year-old Henry kept asking for more gifts. I think, he’s exhausted and can’t remember what he’s opened.
“No, Henry. No more gifts. You’re finished.”
Gifts are everywhere and the pile system is no better than when we started. Gifts will end up with the wrong people in the wrong houses…all except one, a real squirrel from the hills of Montana. The squirrel is going home with Jason. I’ve yet to buy Jason a gift he likes. This year I went with a theme; a squirrel welcome mat for the front door, a gift certificate to Outdoor Hunting and a squirrel. He would like it or hate it, but the feeling would be intense and he’d remember it. He is now the proud owner of a tiny red-mountain squirrel.
The day is done. We’ve opened great gifts, we’ve ate an abundance of sugar, good soup and great food, we’ve played with toys. It’s clean up time.
Jill says, “Mom there’s floating water in the cabinet under the sink.”
She empties the cabinet. She and Jason are under the sink with a flashlight and wrench. Wet boxes and gross old bottles are all over the floor. The counters are covered with leftovers and dirty dishes. The sink can’t be used or fixed. I need a plumber. Everyone is tired, especially the babies.
I say to Jill, “Just let it go. I can clean all of this up later.”
She replies, “No, Mom, you’re old. And that’s scary.”
All of my children are looking at me like it’s hopeless. I know they wonder how I drive, eat, breathe, work and survive when they are not with me. They clean up the kitchen, haul away all the trash and bid me farewell with best wishes and thanks, while looking a little frightened.
I go upstairs to turn out the lights and see Henry’s Christmas presents. Poor Henry, he kept asking if he had anymore gifts because he was worried I might like his sister better. I’ll need to visit Henry soon and explain how my system failed him.
Christmas Night, I can’t cook or run water in the kitchen, but what matters is I have beautiful children and I know how to build memories they won’t forget. Someday they’re going to miss me, but most of all someday they’re going to understand me.