The holidays: a time for joy. A time for cheer. Also a time for near-death experiences and assiduously avoiding the fruitcakes of distant relatives. Below, three true tales from our readers of holidays gone wrong. The stories have been edited for length, and for clarity, and to prevent our readers from being disowned. Cheers.
In which we murder the turtle doves
Every year around the holidays, the trees in my uncle’s backyard are set upon by hundreds and hundreds of migratory blackbirds, also known as Eurasian blackbirds, Turdus merula, a species of thrush. One year, the flock arrived on Christmas Day.
Now, blackbirds are pretty creatures by themselves. Shiny. Black. But this migratory event can be, how do you say, loud. And messy. Birds shit everywhere. And bird shit is slippery. This is because, in birds, the excretory system combines both feces and uric acid, so they’re basically pee-shitting at the same time [Editor’s note: disgusting but true, we looked it up].
So these hundreds and hundreds of blackbirds pee-shit all over the backyard, and the deck, and the pool tarp, and the geraniums, and my aunt’s prized Dalmatian dogs, which can be very confusing, because then you can’t tell, because of the messed-up spots, which dog is which. Also the dogs bark, and that is, how do you say, also very fucking loud.
Enter my grandfather. A stoic man, child of the Depression, proud wearer of fedoras and camel hair jackets. At Christmas, he would sit in my uncle’s La-Z-Boy and drink either Mattingly & Moore or red wine, depending on what was brought to him where he sat. He rarely complained. He could put up with just about any hardship. He could even put up with hundreds of cawing blackbirds pee-shitting on his son’s deck, and pool tarp, and geraniums, and my aunt’s prized Dalmations. What he could not put up with, however, was his daughter-in-law complaining about all of that.
And so, as we were sitting down to Christmas Dinner, my uncle asked “Where’s Grandaddy?” He was nowhere to be found. That’s when we heard the shotgun, and then heard the birds, and saw, through the dining room window, thousands and thousands of black feathers drifting slowly to the ground.
Just a word of warning: blackbird shit-pee is relatively easy to hose off. Blackbird feathers everywhere? Not so much.
— Sid Abbot, Virginia
In which the tree is either with us, or against us
After my brothers and I moved out, and we no longer cut down the family Christmas tree, Mom broke down and bought one of those artificial trees with the lights pre-strung on it. Day or so after Christmas, Dad took down all the decorations and packed them up. And like he had always done, he removed all the lights from the tree and packed them too. Said he had to work his ass off to get them off. Couldn't figure out how they got them on so good.
— Mike T.
In which everyone gets a show
After I graduated college and moved to New York, I started seeing a girl who was still a junior [back in DC]. We hadn't been serious very long and I still liked returning to campus, so I made a trip down in December to see her for a Christmas Dinner date.
I took her to a nice restaurant. We sat down later than I wanted and I was starving. We got our first drinks, and then an app, and then my steak came out. This is where it got interesting. On my second bite, I bit of a little more than I could chew and I start choking.
At first, I was like, play it cool, play it cool, so I grabbed my beer and started pouring it down my gullet trying to drown the steak down. That was a bad idea.
Not only could I not breathe or talk, I couldn't swallow, so now I just had beer sloshing around my mouth and throat. Now I’m really freaking out, and I literally thought to myself, surely there’s a doctor in an overcoat here to save me. That was really dumb.
So I reach across the table while my date is picking through her salad and telling a story, not paying any attention to me, and I slap the table. She looks up and I give her the international choking symbol of hands around my throat. She thinks I am kidding. She is about 5'2" and petite, definitely not giving me the Heimlich.
So I run up to the host, this rotund, short Italian gentleman that I would find out later is named Massimo, and I give him the same choking symbol. Massimo, I am pretty sure, says, "Prego!" and spins me around and starts going to town on my abdomen.
The problem is, each time he rolls me over his belly, the beer I tried to drink spurts out of my mouth. While that was happening, I made brief eye contact with my date and her jaw was literally on the table. Meanwhile, a few of my baseball buddies' younger teammates are there. The restaurant was round and the host table is in the middle, so everyone had a front-row seat. I could hear people's silverware dropping to their plates and felt their eyes turn to me.
After five to six upward thrusts to my sternum, voila, the steak dislodged and literally high pressure shot out of my mouth Mrs. Doubtfire-style. The sweet breeze of oxygen filled my lungs. And then I started vomiting all over the floor of the restaurant. It was mostly beer ... and some spinach and artichoke dip.
I went to the bathroom to clean myself up, kick myself in the nuts for screwing up my Christmas Dinner Date, and returned to the table. I expected my date to be long gone, but she stayed, and was silent for the better part of the first 30 seconds. Then she burst out laughing hysterically. I thought, did that just happen? and then I just continued to finish my steak. It was the best steak I have ever had. As the restaurant emptied out, Massimo came over and sat with us with a nice bottle of tequila. My mom wrote him a letter later saying thank you for saving my son’s life.
— Edward, NY, NY
Have a story of holidays gone wrong you’d like to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows, we might publish it someday. Or just mail you some fruitcake.