A few years ago, my family is in the kitchen preparing the Christmas meal: my husband, my siblings and their spouses, and my parents, and maternal grandparents. Suddenly, as we're about to start setting the table, the doorbell rings. "They're here!", cries my Grandmother with delight. "Who's here?" asks my Mother, puzzled. "Why, my sister!" she replies. "And her kids…and look, her grandkids too!" I'm sorry, Grandma, what????
In just a few short moments, our entire home is inundated with an entire family's worth of surprise guests. Three generations worth of surprise guests.
"Quick!", whispers my Mom, "start looking in the pantry for some extra food." My sister starts to make "platters" of nibbles consisting of raisins and slices of cheddar cheese.
The food shortage wasn't our only problem, we also had no chairs. I will never forget the moment when my first-cousin-twice-removed, a popular sports TV anchor in Australia, was ushered to his spot. "I suppose you can sit here…next to the cat bowl," says my Mother. My brother held an emergency meeting in the spare room: "Is there a famous guy in our kitchen eating next to the cat?"
But worst of all - the heat. It's hard for Northern Hemisphere folks to imagine Christmas day in Australia at 105 degrees. But try a little harder and imagine this: 105 degrees, two three-generation families, no air-conditioner. My parents had been resisting for the longest time buying an air conditioner, insisting against all reason that their house was "naturally cool". No, Mom and Dad, no one's house is naturally cool with that many people inside.
So, to compensate, my parents went from room to room, spritzing water on people's faces with $1 spray bottles from the dollar store. Don't worry - they asked first. "Would you like a spray?" Yep, there was a guy in my house who ate raisins for Christmas, next to a cat bowl, while distant relatives sprayed water in his face.
Regardless of all that, the next day, as we lay around on the couch and listened to new CDs and played new board games, my immediate family (my sister and brother and I) all started laughing about the cat bowl and the $1 spritzer bottles. What a mad Christmas it was this year, we all agreed. And rather than getting frustrated about surprise guests or our parents' lack of emergency seating, we took it lightly. We made a joke. We laughed together. And it felt great.
And in that moment, what could have been the worst Christmas ever, became the best - a story to tell for as long as Christmases happen.
Laughter: it's amazing what it can do. May it come to your family in unexpected ways this season, also. A truly, Merry Christmas.