When I saw National Lampoon's “Christmas Vacation” was being aired on television a few days before Thanksgiving, I happily tuned in to have a good laugh.
It's one of my favorite holiday movies, and watching poor Clark bumble through the process of trying to give his family the perfect Christmas just seems endlessly funny. But as I watched the film, I couldn't help but think: Who really has that much trouble getting a holiday together?
I should have known better than to ask.
When the flu hit our family a week before Thanksgiving, I tried to convince myself it would pass in a day. Two days later and with everyone still miserable, the one child who managed to escape the illness walked through the house, surveying the dismal scene. Then he stopped in front of me as I sat listlessly sipping ginger ale.
“Mom, are you guys going to get it together for Thanksgiving?”
The holiday was only a few days away, and while the logical side of me doubted we would all recover so quickly, the maternal side of me prevailed. I decided to will myself to get better.
Wednesday night arrived, and we were on the mend. Since we hadn't been able to go grocery shopping yet, we found ourselves still in need of all the supplies for a Thanksgiving feast. So, the entire family went to the store.
The crowds made it a slow, painful process, and we had barely made it through three aisles when our younger son proved he had not yet totally recovered. Horrified, my husband and I looked at each other panic-stricken.
“I'll take the kids to the car; you buy whatever we have in the cart already!” my husband said frantically, taking the stroller and racing out of the store. I paid for the 10 items we had managed to accrue before the incident and ran out to the car to find each kid crying for a different reason. For about a half-second, I thought about joining them.
But, after a thorough bath and an early bedtime, calm seemed to descend again. My husband returned to the store to finish the shopping, and I set out to do laundry and erase the evidence of our unpleasant evening. I was determined to have a great holiday.
The next morning, we cheerfully began preparing our dinner, and by noon, we had reached a point where we could sit down and relax together.
“This is lovely,” I told my family.
At that moment, a huge sound came from the kitchen. We ran into the room and after a quick inspection, discovered the oven had broken — with a half-cooked turkey in it.
“That's not good,” my husband said simply as we stared at the fried appliance.
I burst into laughter. He looked at me with surprise, and then a smile broke across his face. We were disappointed, but the humor in our situation hadn't escaped us. We tried everything to redeem our dinner, but it ended up being a turkey-free meal. Then, after an hour of dishes and cleaning, we put the kids to bed and collapsed on the couch.
“Who has this much trouble on a holiday?” my husband asked me incredulously.
I smiled. I knew just the person. And suddenly, I had a whole new level of respect for Clark Griswold.