Today we're hosting a little holiday trauma session and giveaway with absolutely fantastic Jane Porter.
I was lucky enough to be seated next to Jane at the Kentucky Book Fair, and having spent most of the day people-watching and sharing ridiculous stories from our lives, I can honestly say I want to be her when I grow up.
Jane's sharing her favorite holiday disaster story with us today, while my "Saga of the Exploding Stuffing" is posted at Jane's site. See details below on how to enter to win a copy of Jane's "Flirting With Forty." You may remember it was recently made into a Lifetime movie with Heather Locklear.
So here's Jane's tale of holiday woe:
My personal best Christmas disaster incident happened shortly after I became a single mom and went shopping for a Christmas tree with my boys. In fact it made such an impact on me, I actually wrote the scene into my novel, Flirting With Forty. Here’s an excerpt to share the scene… My main character Jacquie has just arrived home with her kids and they’re trying to maneuver the Christmas tree from the car into the house to set it up….
“Okay, William, Jessica, stand back,” I hang on to the SUV’s roof rack. “I’m going to drag the tree to the edge and then drop it down.”
I scoot the tree across the roof, cringing as the branches squeak and scratch.
Even though this isn’t a double trunk tree this year, it’s still heavy, heavier than expected and suddenly its caught on one of the rack rails. I tug, the tree doesn’t budge, I check the twine, it’s cut, check the tree, the branches aren’t caught. The tree is just too heavy to knock off the roof.
“William, I’m going to need a hand. Be careful.”
He’s eager to help. Jumps up on the driver’s seat, reaches for the top part of the tree.
I grunt as fresh noble fir branches slap my face. Another good hard yank and I should have tree off….
I put on a CD of Nat King Cole’s Christmas carols, do a little stretching, okay—feeling vaguely like Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon—but that’s fine. Anything to keep this fun.
Jess, William and I fling open all the doors, grab a piece of tree and drag-carry our increasingly less noble, Noble Fir into the living room.
We get it there and it lies in the middle of the floor hogging space.
I stand back, rub sap off my hands. It’s a healthy big wide tree.
Still rubbing my hands I share the plan: “We’re going to slide the tree into the stand while it’s still on the ground. And then together we’ll lift it. Then while you guys hold it steady, I’ll tighten the screws and we can start decorating.”
It’s a good plan. It should work.
The tree’s lower branches won’t let us get the tree stand ring high enough around the trunk to hold the tree upright in the stand. We lower the tree down, screws are loosened with great difficulty (I shouldn’t have been so zealous with the pliers until I knew the tree would fit.)
We’re going to have to cut branches. And of course I don’t have any tools for cutting branches.
In the divorce Daniel get the second house, the Porsche, the new young girlfriend and the old saw we used for things like this.
I should have bought a saw.
“How about scissors?” Jessica suggests.
“Scissors will break,” I answer, sitting on my heels, hearing Nat croon but it’s not helping.
“How about a knife?” William offers.
“Sure.” I’m battling here for warmth and charm.
“Get the bread knife, though. That’s the long one with the serrated edge—“ I see his blank look, break off. “Never mind. I’ll get it.”
One bread knife later, I’m sawing at the slim lower branches that seem to have sprung up all over the tree base. It takes minutes to cut just one. There are at least ten more. My God. This could go on all night….
I’m still sawing away, swearing beneath my breath. I take a rest.
“Mom, let me do it. I can do it. I’m strong.”
“I don’t want you hurt.”
“I won’t get hurt.” He takes the knife from me. “Stand back.”
Stand back. I almost cry. Little boys shouldn’t have to ever take care of their mothers. “You can try, just for a minute,” I say, crouching close by in case he slices off a couple fingers and I have to run fast to get them on ice.
Nothing will go wrong, I tell myself. Why would anything go wrong? This whole tree thing has been a roaring success.
William saws and hacks away at the tree. Carpenters and contractors on home improvement shows would be appalled at our craft skills, but we’re a family, and we hack and saw like a family. “How’s it going?” I ask him.
Jessica’s crouching close now, too. “My turn.”
“No, Jessica. You’re not going to use the knife.”
“Why not? William is.”
“William’s almost four years older.”
“Knives are dangerous—“
“You let him do everything and you don’t let me do anything.”
“You’re right.” I sit back, hands on thighs. “I should have let you get crushed by the tree instead of William. He’s ninety pounds and you’re what? Forty? You can handle it.”
She rolls her eyes at me. “I wouldn’t get crushed. That’s an exaggeration…”
“William, that’s good,” I say, beginning to get uneasy the longer he saws at the tree. I’m just waiting for the knife to slip, fingers to fly, blood spurting. And I’m seriously not good with blood.
Twenty minutes later we’re ready to try to stand the tree again. William and I are holding the tree and trying to shake it all the way down to the bottom of the stand and we can’t get it down no matter how hard we try.
I stand back to see what it looks like while William is buried in the tree, holding it steady. “Maybe it’s okay like this,” he mumbles around a mouthful of pine.
I’m thinking he’s right. It looks straight. Enough.
“Keep holding the tree, and I’ll tighten the screws the rest of the way.” I’ve located a second pair of pliers and with pliers in hand I wiggle on my stomach beneath the tree, heading in face first as if I’m auditioning for the staged version of Desert Storm. Jessica’s crawling in from the other side with her pliers and together we bang and clank on the screws while William shouts encouragements.
“You’ve got it,” he says. “Looks great. I think it’s going to work.”
“Mom, I’ve got this side,” Jessica says.
And finally, sappy and red-faced, I crawl back out. The tree looks okay.
“Are we going to decorate now?” Jess asks, putting the pliers now to bookends, and drawer knobs and anything that protrudes….
Three hours later, the kids are finally in bed and I’m just finishing washing my face when I hear a horrible splintering crash from downstairs. I go cold everywhere and for a second can’t move. I just stand there with a sick icy feeling in my middle and I can see myself in the mirror, puffy shower cap still on my head, traces of foamy soap suds at the hairline, and I know what it is, that thud punctuated by breaking glass.
It’s just gone down.
I just got up to check my tree stand after reading that.
OK, my lovlies, I’m giving away two copies of Jane's Flirting with Forty, and Jane's got prizes and Christmas goodies, too! All you’ve got to do is read Jane's story here, and then visit her blog here to read my story, then share your personal christmas disaster story with us on both blogs to enter the giveaway.
You don't have to share your story on both, but if you do, you double your chances for winning! And remember, no story is too weird. You can't spell "dysfunctional" without "F-U-N."