A few things: December 2019

Were your holidays magical? The stuff of Disney and Hallmark movies, only more so?

Ah, good on you! I’m tickled.

As for us? Well,

My sister and her crew gave me the best Christmas present I could ever want and spent the holidays with us, here in our house, all of us together for the first time, ever.

And Bernard said, don’t go all Martha Stewart/Julie McCoy on this; and I ignored him.

I made a schedule, because we would have only a few days together. (We did not keep to this schedule; not at all.)

I made a plan to get the extra bedroom ready, the floor finished, everything decorated with rugs and lamps and art on the walls, the bathroom to magazine standards, like a spa retreat. (This SO did not happen.)

I made cookie dough, which I rolled in parchment paper and froze, ready to slice and bake and decorate. (We did none of that.)

We (the four of us) put up the tree, laced it with lights and left it undecorated so we (the 10 of us) could listen to Christmas music and decorate the tree, lovingly remembering ornaments from years past, and telling stories of our childhood Christmases. (This did not happen, either.)

We would watch holiday movies, snuggled all together. (We did actually watch It’s a Wonderful Life.) (Some of us.) (Because it’s our favorite Christmas movie.)

On Christmas Eve we would start a brand new tradition, with a taco bar and margaritas (virgin, frozen ones for the kids) after we got home from Christmas Eve service. Which is usually at 5:00 but this year was at SEVEN O’CLOCK. (What!) (So, we did stick kind of to this plan, because not everyone went to church – which thrilled them to no end. And we ate dinner at almost TEN O’CLOCK which is why the adults were then up until 3 a.m.)

Knowing they would be part of our annual Christmas pajama brunch (30+ people), my sister and her crew brought holiday pajamas and good-sport attitudes, ready to make new memories and enjoy each other’s company. (This actually did happen, only not exactly to plan.)

Was it memorable? Indeed. Did we laugh hysterically and enjoy each other’s company? Oh yes, and then some. Because,

At 8:00 we (the tired adults) let the children open their stockings while we (the very, very tired adults) made coffee and tried to wake up (because, 3:00 a.m. …). The plan was to gather around our big table at 8:30, sitting in a lovely, calm, grateful circle, and go around, one-by-one, each opening one gift (ooh, ahh, ooh, ahh), and then there would be a free-for-all while we (the newly invigorated caffeinated adults) finished last-minute preparation for our guests, scheduled to arrive at 11:00.

At 8:25 my son raced through the kitchen, grabbed the plunger from the downstairs bathroom, muttered something about “someone plugged up the toilet,” and dashed back up the stairs.

Two minutes later, while I was standing in the kitchen, arranging plates, I heard him yell: Dad! DAD!!!

And Bernard said: I’m cooking bacon! I can’t come up right now!

And I said: I think this might be serious; you should probably go and let me cook the bacon.

And then water started streaming down the kitchen wall and windows.

We used every towel in the house, sopping up water in the bathroom and kitchen. Then we cleaned and disinfected every square inch of both rooms, washed all of the dishes, glasses, and silverware (just in case), washed ourselves, changed clothes, and finally sat down to open gifts.

And then, POOF! Our guests arrived, right on time. And we greeted them with delirious laughter and said, “Merry Shitty Christmas,” and they thought we were nuts, and we were (are), and they just rolled right along with our disorganized mess. (You had a Christmas Poo-nami! one friend exclaimed, because she is a good friend, as all of our friends are.)

One friend offered grace. Another friend made Bloody Marys. The cooking friends produced a marvelous buffet. The wine friends attended to the wine. The photographers photographed. The kids home from college told their college tales. We ate and drank and laughed and were merry.

When it was time for bed, Christmas night, my youngest nephew, who is sweet and adorable and funny, said: Aunt Jennifer we are really enjoying staying in your attic. And my sister said: No, silly, that’s not the attic it’s a bedroom. And I said: But it really does feel like the attic, doesn’t it. And my nephew said: Yes, it does, and I like it. And I said: I love you. And he said: I love you, too.

That was our magical holiday, which was very much not the stuff of Hallmark movies or Rockwell paintings, because we are lucky: To have family, friends and neighbors. To have been raised by a resourceful, resilient mother. To know from experience that our time on this earth is not infinite. To carry the gift of laughter. To live real, messy, complicated lives, full of unexpected joy, especially when a poo-nami strikes.

My sister named it Shitmas. It was the best, most wonderful, memorable, ridiculous Shitmas I could ever have dreamed of.

Wishing you and yours an abundance of warmth and light in the new year. May the good memories of 2019 stay with you, always.


  1. What a great story. I gasped out loud at the thought of toilet water running down your kitchen walls. Many years ago I had water in my basement up to my knees on Christmas Eve, but I was not laughing. Great that you took it all in stride and had a great Shitmas!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alice and I were looking for Margaret and crew but missed seeing them. I wish you would post a picture of them for us in an email to me.
    You are amazing at turning disaster into fun..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Twenty years ago, I was living in Midtown Memphis, in a duplex with two friends. My parents and my grandparents and my great uncle and aunt and some other assorted relatives all came to my duplex for the big holiday meal. Someone let the indoor (declawed before we got them) cats out into the neighborhood. My brother began having an allergy attack. The kitchen sink backed up in a spectacular event that even now I have trouble describing. My parents good-naturedly bailed water out the kitchen door with random bowls and tupperware containers until my landlady could get ahold of an emergency plumber. It was insanity. But at least it wasn’t toilet water running down my kitchen walls. Thank you for the good laugh–you are a much better sport than I would have been! (Side note: that was the last holiday with all of my grandparents, and I am grateful for it, in all its imperfections, even today.)


  4. I just snorted my coffee. Thanks for the lol, and for helping cleanse my sinuses. Cheers to sewage-free New Year in your attic!


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