Something will always go wrong, so you might as well get used to it. I know, it isn’t the type of mantra one likes to put out into the universe at the start of the new year. And I wouldn’t necessarily recommend saying that to yourself every time you walk into a room, lest you be a major buzzkill.
But the moment you fully accept that fact, my friend, freedom abounds!
Your kids will refuse to wear the gorgeous dress you bought for the event. Someone will drop the birthday cake. The turkey will be raw, so you have to make everybody peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a side of cornbread dressing. It is what it is.
And so it was with Christmas.
We decided to travel to Texas to see my husband’s family right before the holiday. I wasn’t expecting another shoe to drop. If the law of attraction has taught me anything, you don’t want to give problems an invite to the party. But I was ready for anything — hyper aware and vigilant. Experiencing fall at a new preschool meant that, at any moment, one of us could projectile vomit, get pinkeye, catch a fever or fall off a curb and sprain an ankle. All things were possible!
But to my most pleasant surprise, we were all healthy during our daylong drive. Every time we pulled up to a gas station, Lucy would ask, “Oh no! Is this Texas?” But other than that, the girls were patient, played, napped and snacked joyfully. Our Holiday Inn Express might as well been Disneyland, and we had a lovely time visiting family. I rested in the spirit of Christmas, but like a Navy Seal in unfamiliar territory, I didn’t rest on my laurels.
On the way home, the girls actually did get pinkeye and I was deeply paranoid I had pinkeye, so I thought that was the shoe that was going to drop. But it cleared up within 24 hours, and we went on to enjoy Christmas Eve with my side of the family.
Traditionally, my mom hosts a big Christmas Eve party, and then on Christmas Day, my parents come over for an extravagant prime rib roast dinner. It’s a very special and precious tradition I look forward to every year.
As I do each holiday, I took out a loan for the rib roast, bought the wine, pre-made our dessert and prepped everything for the side dishes. And then on Christmas Eve, after helping my mom clean up, I plopped on to the couch and said the infamous words, “Geesh, I feel fatigued! Must be all that traveling!”
No, you fool! It’s about to go wrong!
And it did. As we turned into our driveway, my temperature spiked. We put the girls to bed and, while covered in a robe of denial and five knitted blankets, I told my husband — who was assembling Barbie’s Playhouse — that I just needed a bit of sleep and I would be right as rain in the morning.
Except that night was death. War. The plague. My throat felt like it was stuffed with paper towels. I ran ice cold then spiked fire hot over and over. I hallucinated sugar plum fairies and might have cried a little.
In the morning, I was still on the couch, and I heard Lucy get up and run into our room to wake up my husband. Shaky, I wrapped the blanket around me and feigned Christmas delight. As the girls opened presents, I sat and shivered, putting on an award-winning performance of holiday joy. Then, when every present was opened, I plummeted to the couch. The girls ate candy from their stockings instead of the Christmas French toast I had planned. My husband was sympathetic, but I could see the sadness in his eyes as he wondered what was going to happen to that huge, expensive hunk of meat in the fridge.
All of Christmas day, I went in and out of consciousness on the couch as the girls played happily around me with their new toys. I was too sick to be disappointed, and slept for almost a full 24 hours until my fever finally broke. Then I was sweaty and wild-eyed for another 12.
Something went wrong. But things do a lot because that’s life, and it does tend to keep us all on our toes. And yet, we always have the opportunity to transform the disappointment into something good — maybe even something better.
The roast was reserved for New Year’s Day and, after some chatting, my mom and I realized that maybe Christmas Day brunch might be a bit more light and fun after indulging so much on Christmas Eve. Perhaps we should move our tradition to New Year’s Day from now on and make it even more special.
Something bad happened, which led to something pretty great.
And on New Year’s Day, not a single shoe dropped.
Anna Lind Thomas is a humor writer and mom to daughters Lucy and Poppy and English bulldog Bruno, wife to Rob Thomas and founder of HaHas for HooHas. She writes for momaha.com.