We had a plan.
Then we had another plan.
Then, you know, we just winged it. I mean, you think a Slinky is flexible...this year we would have dominated a Slinky.
The Christmas plan was for all the kids, spouses, and grandkids to spend Christmas Eve at our house. The grandkids claimed the living room for a sleepover, so there were enough beds for everyone.
December 23, Oldest Daughter called to say she’d tested positive for Covid. Luckily, she’s been vaccinated, vaccinated again, and boosted, so she wasn’t too ill, just a bit under the weather. Because all our kids have jobs that involve quite a bit of contact with other people, they didn’t want to take the chance of infecting other folks.
Scratch Plan A.
One of my first thoughts was to skip changing all the Christmas plans and instead devote our energy to tracking down and beating up the person who’d exposed her. In the true spirit of Christmas that plan was quickly voted down, so I went to bed.
Scratch Plan B.
My family are problem solvers. By the time I got up the next morning, they’d worked things out. I assumed we’d all just stay home and wallow in misery, but gifts for the grandchildren were coming in from out of town, we hadn’t seen Daughter Two and her spouse for a while, and we’d already prepared dinner. We agreed to meet them in Willmar, about 80 miles away, for a short visit and to exchange all needed gifts. We’d also hand off their share of the dinner for thirteen.
We picked up Four and Five at their father’s house on the way, because they wanted a few minutes with their aunt and uncle. Shortly after we got on the road, Five said, “I’m bored,” which is shorthand for wanting custody of Grammy’s iPad. When told she hadn’t brought it, he asked for her phone. Stunned to discover there were no games on her phone, he lapsed into an unbelieving silence, until he said his stomach hurt. I was skeptical, but a kid saying his stomach hurts is like a movie where the bad guy has his thumb on the button that sets off a nuclear bomb – we just couldn’t risk it. I pulled off to the side of the highway and rolled down the window. He leaned out, looked thoughtfully to the right and left, then vomited down the side of my pickup.
Scratch Plan C.
Instead of coffee and conversation with our daughter, we parked two spaces apart in an empty lot and exchanged waves, food, and packages. I’m sure it looked like some nefarious drug deal.
We drove the thirty miles back to Four and Five’s home, dropped them off, then headed twenty-five miles north to Oldest Daughter’s home. My father had planned to come out for Christmas Eve dinner, although he declined to be part of the sleepover. I’d been calling him about every change in plans, but at some point, he stopped answering the phone.
We carried several loads of dinner and gifts to our daughter’s porch and waved through the window as they claimed their booty. Then a masked figure handed us a bag in return. We got home about five hours after we’d left and had a quiet dinner, after we’d taken the leaves out of the dining room table. About ten minutes later, our son called to say Five was all better and really wanted to come to our house.
On to Plan D.
Four and Five showed up an hour later and we had a lovely meal. By this point, we had cut into the dinner for thirteen, but there was still plenty left.
As civilized people do, we didn’t open presents until dinner was over. Among the gifts exchanged was a set of cookie-making utensils for Five, a budding chef. It seemed like a waste to not take them for a test spin, so he and Grammy knocked out a set of Christmas cookies around 10:00 p.m.
With two thirds of the guest list missing, I thought there’d be plenty of bedrooms and beds, but when I broached sleeping arrangements Number Five said, with great indignation, “Do you mean I brought my sleeping bag for nothing?”
So, in a house with three spare bedrooms and many, many spare beds, I found myself blowing up an air mattress and spreading a sleeping bag so one of my grandchildren could sleep on the floor.
Keep in mind, Plan E only got us to 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day took us through a sizeable chunk of the rest of the alphabet.
It wasn’t the Christmas we planned or expected, but you know what? It was still Christmas.
Copyright 2021 Brent Olson